Jerusalem Syndrome at the BBC comedy quiz QI

BBC Watch is not yet even a week old, but the response from the public has been far beyond our expectations with many supportive e-mails landing in our in-box. Some of you have also alerted us to various BBC-related issues and we thank you very much for acting as extra eyes and ears, and hope you will continue to do so.

This is one such story, brought to our attention by a BBC Watch reader. 

The popular BBC 2 comedy quiz show QI (Quite Interesting) – hosted by Stephen Fry – ran an episode on Friday, October 12th 2012 dedicated to places beginning with the letter J and – as can be seen from the programme’s website – one of those places is Jerusalem. 

Now yes; it is only a light-hearted comedy quiz show which should not be taken too seriously, but all the same – if the BBC is going to mention Jerusalem in what purports to be a general knowledge-related programme, then obviously it is not a good idea to present the city as a place connected solely to Christianity and Islam. That is especially true when one of the corporation’s ‘raisons d’etre’ – according to the Royal Charter under which it operates – is to advance ‘Public Purposes’, including “promoting education and learning”.

“In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI described Jerusalem as ‘a crossroads for peoples of many different origins’. It has been such for thousands of years, indeed even before the birth of Jesus the city had suffered battles between Babylonians, Israelites, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, Maccabees and Romans. 

Today it is the third holiest city in Islam – in Arabic, Jerusalem is most commonly known as al-Quds meaning ‘The Holy’ – and of great importance to Jesus’s followers where more than a dozen Christian communities live side by side in (not always complete) harmony.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places in Christianity and has been the site of pilgrimages since the 4th century. Today it is looked after by six separate denominations of the faith, each of whom has its own parts of the building, as well as sharing communal areas.  Coptic Christians and Ethiopian Orthodox followers, for instance, dispute one part of the roof, and so a Coptic monk can always be seen sitting on a chair placed on the roof to express this claim.  A ladder at the church has been stood on a particular spot since at least 1757; none of the sects dares touch it in case they incur the wrath of one of the others.

Tattoos used to be known as ‘Jerusalem letters’. Pilgrims would routinely get letters or symbols inked onto them when they visited the Holy Land.  Indeed when the future King Edward VII, rode into Jerusalem in 1862, escorted by 100 Ottoman cavalrymen,  his greatest aim was to get a Crusader tattoo. 

Trips to Jerusalem can also lead to ‘Jerusalem syndrome’ which has been recognised since the 1930s as a specific mental illness. It’s described as ‘a psychotic decompensation related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem’. These days, it affects between 50 and 100 tourists a year, many of whom think they are the Chosen One. One doctor, who found two patients who both claimed to be the Messiah, put them in a room together just to see what would happen. Each accused the other one of being an impostor.  One of the most effective ways to treat the syndrome is to get the person out of Jerusalem.”

It seems that the BBC is suffering from a Jerusalem Syndrome of its own. 

(Admin: JARYP2PFKAC4 ) 


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