Jerusalem Syndrome Jerusalem Syn·drome [ji-roo-suh-luh m, -zuh-] [sin-drohm, -druhm] (n) A group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected Jews, Christians and Muslims of many different backgrounds.

June 2012

The TT Zion was found marooned but otherwise seaworthy on a sandbank near East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale. The boulevard is an upmarket stretch of prime real estate: Dan Quayle once lived here, as did Sonny and Cher, and the TT Zion wouldn’t normally look out of place in such salubrious surroundings. But on this warm and wet summer night the TT Zion wasn’t where it should be. Its twin engines were running, the lights were on. But the TT Zion was empty, abandoned, lost.

Las Olas means ‘The Waves’ in Spanish, a nod to Florida’s deceptively dangerous shoreline. Shark attacks are more common here than anywhere else in the world. Last year the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File programme recorded 80 unprovoked attacks worldwide, 53 of those in the US. Just under half of those, 26, were in Florida, the joint highest since records began. High winds and hurricanes regularly batter a coastline renowned for its strong rip tides, killing dozens every year. The Gulf Stream charges north at 3.5 knots just a few miles from the coast, its warm waters powering the violent storms that tear along the Eastern seaboard.

It was dark, the winds high. Four foot waves had been recorded that night. For Florida, it was the start of one of the most destructive hurricane seasons in living memory — a total of 10 would be formed over the coming months, including Hurricane Sandy, which would go on to batter New York. Over 200 lives would be lost and $78 billion worth of damage caused. 

But as Guma Aguiar boarded the TT Zion, a homage to the ancient name of Jerusalem, hurricane season was still in its infancy — albeit, the busiest pre-July hurricane season on record. It was an apt name for Aguiar’s 31-foot, $2.1 million luxury pride and joy. The 35-year-old Jewish multi-millionaire had made Jerusalem the capital of his world. Ever since his natural gas exploration company Leor Energy discovered and then sold the largest natural gas field in the US, Aguiar had pumped millions of dollars into the city. 

He wasn’t always Jewish. At least, he didn’t always identify himself as Jewish. Born in Brazil to a Jewish mother, Aguiar was raised a Catholic but was brought back to Judaism by Rabbi Tovia Singer, founder and director of Outreach Judaism. Outreach Judaism is a self-declared “counter-missionary” organisation “dedicated to countering the efforts of fundamentalist Christian groups and cults who specifically target Jews for conversion.” The controversial Rabbi Singer had discovered Aguiar’s roots and aggressively attempted to reconnect him to his heritage. Aguiar was 26 at the time. 

Three years later his stewardship of Leor had netted him an estimated fortune of $200 million. Reborn in his faith, Aguiar became enchanted with Jerusalem. He spent big to attract the attentions of the great and good in Israel, donating tens of millions of dollars to a host of Jewish organisations. But his biggest outlay came in June 2009, when he decided he was going to buy Beitar Jerusalem1, Israel’s most popular and most controversial football club. He sunk $4 million into the team and was welcomed to the club like a saviour. He had found acceptance. He had found home.

But, within seven months, Aguiar wasn’t to be seen on the club’s terraces any more. He was being held in a psychiatric institution after a series of episodes in Israel. He was flown home, half his fortune gone, deeply embroiled in an on-going legal case against his uncle and business partner Thomas Kaplan, an Oxford University-trained historian with a love of nature conservation who had made his money in mining and natural gas. Aguiar’s wife, Jamie, had asked him for a divorce. 

According to the US Coastguard’s report on the boat’s GPS signal, the TT Zion left its mooring on 19 June 2012 at 7.29pm and travelled at 31 miles per hour north east — such a speed that the TT Zion jumped the waves, according to one eye witness — until abruptly coming to a halt, turning and drifting back to East Las Olas Boulevard. Aguiar was gone; his phone and wallet were found on board. At first it seemed like a clear case of suicide, a troubled young man who was about to lose everything taking his final stand. But a few days after his disappearance, a vicious series of court battles erupted over Aguiar’s assets. Accusations of opulence, avarice, indulgence, greed and manipulation were made as Aguiar’s final resting place remained unknown. The TT Zion stopped just short of the Gulf Stream. One coastguardsman suggested that the abrupt change of speed and the boat’s broken tow bar indicated that Aguiar might have been thrown overboard. In the Gulf Stream, his body would be taken north and never seen again. In fact, few involved in the case truly expected his remains to be found, but not because of the speed of the Gulf Stream. A very different explanation was gaining traction. His body might not be found because there might not be a body to be found. 

Guma Aguiar might not be dead after all.

The Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem is named after the city’s greatest mayor, Theodor Kollek. Teddy, as he was affectionately named, came to power in 1965 after running for office at the insistence of then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He ruled over a poor, under-developed western half of the city but made his name when Israel captured the eastern, Arab half of Jerusalem during the Six Day War  of 1967 and he oversaw the city’s modernisation. He was re-elected five times. Teddy was both a Zionist and a pragmatist, indelibly wedded to the idea of a united Jerusalem under Israeli rule but also sympathetic towards the plight of the city’s newly disenfranchised Arab population. When he died in 2007 at the age of 95 the New York Times’s obituary described how Israel’s assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had called him ‘the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod the Great.’ 

Today the vast, modern steel and brick edifice that bears Kollek’s name is home to Beitar Jerusalem. But in recent years, the stadium has seen little of the pragmatism or tolerance that saw Teddy demand that the Israeli military’s first job after capturing East Jerusalem was to distribute free milk to Arab children. Beitar has long been the team of the religious, nationalistic right, representing Israel’s working-class Mizrahim population, Jews who have their roots in the Arab world. After Israel’s creation in 1948, the government was dominated by the white European Jews who had travelled mostly from Germany, Poland and Romania, the Ashkenazim who helped to prolong the Labor party’s leftist hegemony. 

But the club’s fans backed the centre-right Likud party in huge numbers. When Likud finally broke the Labor party’s dominance in the 1977 election, it was seen as a watershed moment for Israel’s Mizrahim and the religious right. Beitar played its part too, winning its first cup final the year before against the country’s biggest team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team steeped in the modern history of the Ashkenazim. Beitar could count on the likes of Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu as supporters. Indeed, many cut their administrative teeth on Beitar’s board before moving into the Knesset. Nobody saw the rise of Likud and the rise of Beitar Jerusalem as a coincidence. One was inexorably connected to the other.

Today the club is renowned in Israel for its hardcore of racist fans, a large minority of whom call themselves La Familia, and for the fact that the team has never had an Arab play for it2. Anti-Arab chants regularly rise from the terraces. The club has received many sanctions for its racism: points deductions and heavy fines among them. The supporters have been regularly banned from the Teddy too, the team forced to play behind closed doors. Nothing seemed to chastise the faithful. Nothing seemed able to change the culture at the club. 

Yet Beitar exerted a strong pull on the rich and the powerful. With so many politically influential supporters, wealthy men lined up to help the club. It was often said that Beitar commanded one million supporters, quite a prize in a country of six million. One of those beguiled by the club was Arkadi Gaydamak, a controversial Russian billionaire who had an outstanding international arrest warrant from France over his dealings in Angola during the civil war. He had invested tens of millions of dollars in the club, bankrolling it to the championship. He tried to instigate the signing of Israel’s best Arab player, Abass Suan. But his efforts to make Beitar a club for everyone in Jerusalem came to nothing. The fans instead rioted and the move was dropped. Later La Familia looted the Israeli FA’s offices. At one game they whistled during a minute’s silence in memory of Yitzhak Rabin. They sang, “Mohammed is a homo”. 

“The idiot bastards can leave,” Gaydamak said of the hardcore troublemakers at his club after a particularly nasty pitch invasion. “The fans who went wild yesterday are bastards, and I have no respect for them. While their numbers are in the thousands, they are not the majority.”

Gaydamak, of course, had his eyes on a bigger prize. He held political ambition and had become a thorn in the then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s side, staging a series of deft publicity stunts. The finest was setting up a luxury tent village in a park in Tel Aviv for the residents of an Israeli town under siege by rockets from Gaza in 2007. Olmert, who at the time had a 0% popularity rating in one national newspaper poll, had insisted that the residents of the towns near Gaza stay put, otherwise Hamas might view it as surrender. But hundreds of terrified residents took up Gaydamak’s offer. Each child was given a black and gold Beitar scarf, the menorah stitched at both ends, on arrival. Still, Gaydamak’s populism didn’t translate to votes. After setting up his own political party he announced in 2008 he would — like Teddy Kollek before him — run for mayor of Jerusalem. He was routed at the ballot box, coming a distant third. The humiliation, coupled with the financial crash which hit his business interests hard, saw Gaydamak withdraw from Beitar as he actively looked for a new buyer for the club. 

Guma Aguiar may have grown up in Brazil but he wasn’t much of a football fan. He was a basketball man through and through. But he had quickly gained a reputation for his acts of philanthropy in Israel after selling Leor Energy and his donations brought him to the attention of Israel’s politicians — he could count the President Shimon Peres as a close friend — and, eventually, Beitar. Without Gaydamak’s backing, the club was on the verge of going under. Aguiar was persuaded to sink US $4m in to the club, as well as a further $1.5m in to the city’s basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem. That was in June 2009 and Aguiar agreed to a telephone interview where I asked him about how his decision to invest in Beitar and Hapoel came about. 

“I love Jerusalem, it’s special. You’re not in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure,” Aguiar explained, sounding confident and erudite as he did in the slew of TV interviews he had conducted to woo the Israeli media. “I was approached,” he said of how Beitar’s predicament was brought to his attention. “There are a lot of people here who feel strongly about their teams. It reminds me a lot of Brazil, going to the Maracanã. A lot people here don’t care about anything other than football. I can relate to that.”

Beitar were desperate for a new saviour and Aguiar seemed to be the perfect fit. He was young, rich and eager to please. Unlike Gaydamak, he also didn’t have any ambition for elected office. “I don’t want to use the football as a political tool because that’s not fair, as an outsider, to come in and have a [political] agenda,” he said. In fact Aguiar, despite being married with four young children, had a reputation as a flamboyant playboy who liked to burn the candle at both ends. “Like Madonna said the other night, this [Jerusalem] is the centre of the universe,” he told a local TV channel while trying to play tennis, badly. He wore sunglasses, his head was bowed, voice hoarse. “The only party I’m interested in forming is just a party.” But he understood Beitar’s reputation in the world and how it was beginning to harm, even define, the city’s standing. “The one thing I would like to see is more tolerance from the fans. In order for us to be competitive and to attract talent we want to play abroad and not be viewed as total hooligans. I certainly wouldn’t want to go to Barcelona and hear them singing ‘Death to the Jews’.”

Like Gaydamak, he wanted to improve Jerusalem’s image. “I want to see the flagship name of Jerusalem, bring some outsiders to Israel to visit [and] create awareness about this place,” he said. “Raising the profile of Jerusalem would be the most positive outcome. It’s torn apart by a lot of conflict. But there are Christians, Jews and Muslims here that love the land they live in. I want Christian and Muslim fans here too.” 

Aguiar sounded sincere and knowledgeable. He agreed we should meet in Israel later in the year, after he had seen exactly what he had bought into. 

On August 28 Guma Aguiar walked on to the pitch at the Teddy Stadium to rapturous applause. It was Beitar’s first match of the season, against their arch-rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv. Arabs had long played for the team. The Israeli TV station Channel 1 aired an interview with Aguiar before the kick-off. It began with him blowing a shofar, a traditional ram’s horn blown during some Jewish religious ceremonies. 

“It’s my first time in the Teddy Stadium,” he said to the camera. His shirt collar was open, revealing a silver Star of David on a necklace. “They say, ‘Are you some kind of Messiah?’ I say no, I don’t want to be associated with a word like that. I have no idea [about the outcome of the Hapoel game]. Only God knows. Maybe he’s feeling extra sympathetic to Jerusalem tonight. And if not, perhaps he’ll feel extra sympathetic later in the year.”

On the pitch a light and smoke show was under way. Dance music thumped out as beautiful Israeli girls danced in the centre circle. On the sidelines Aguiar was jumping up and down to the beat, dancing with a man dressed in a dog suit. Aguiar moved into the centre circle and wiggled his hips in time with the music next to the singer. He closed his eyes, arms in the air and stumbled through the choreography. The dancers didn’t miss a beat. “This is Aguiar’s night,” said Danny Neuman, a Beitar legend commentating on the match for the night. “He has saved Beitar.” 

The game finished 0-0. 

It should have been a quiet midweek evening in the Irish bar in the centre of Jerusalem but Guma Aguiar was gearing up for a long night. Outside, on the quaint cobbled street, a horde of expensive, blacked out 4x4s sat clustered around the door, paying little heed to the city’s parking laws. Inside the lights were low, the bar empty. In one corner, up on a raised platform, stood the tall figure of Aguiar. A ring of steel surrounded him; pumped, shaven headed bodyguards wearing black jeans and black t-shirts. They stood firm as we approached. Aguiar was standing next to an identically dressed bodyguard, who was rolling him a cigarette. Around him several Beitar players, one an Israel international, hovered, eager for his attention. “Guma, can you get me a ticket to an NBA game?” one pleaded. Aguiar ignored him and lit his fat cigarette. The strong smell of marijuana filled the room. 

It had been a few months since Aguiar and I had spoken on the phone. He had agreed to meet me in his favourite bar along with Jeremy, an Israeli journalist I had met at a Beitar match three and a half years previously and who was now the sports editor of the Jerusalem Post. Aguiar trusted Jeremy and was eager to curry favour with a paper that was widely read in North America. Aguiar spotted him, raised his arm, and the black sea parted. 

It was clear that not all was well. Aguiar seemed agitated. He couldn’t focus on anyone for more than a few seconds before losing his trail of thought. Sometimes he would start the same conversation two, three, occasionally four times. The sycophants laughed. His personal bodyguard rolled him another and then another. He had no recollection of our conversation a few months previously, nor of what he had said a few moments before. But his generosity remained intact. He bought round after round of drinks. Aguiar couldn’t make eye contact when we talked. He hung his head to give the illusion of listening. He pressed the half-smoked cigarette between my fingers. I inhaled. 


A tunnel.


White noise.

The world reformed around me. It could have been an hour. It could have been 10 seconds.

Beitar’s season had begun in mixed fashion. They drew the first two league matches of the season 0-0, against arguably their two biggest rivals, Hapoel Tel Aviv and the Arab club Bnei Sakhnin. A handful of narrow victories against low-ranked opponents followed. But as the end of the year approached it was clear that Beitar would not be challenging for the league title, despite the early season optimism. Aguiar’s life was taking an equally rocky path. As his profile rose, so did interest in his private life. A court case between Aguiar and his uncle Thomas Kaplan — the man whom he had gone in to business with a few years previously, making his fortune when they sold Leor — had become a taste of the familial litigation to come. 

In January 2009 Kaplan launched a legal action to remove Aguiar as a director of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation, named in honour of Thomas’ mother. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel Thomas Kaplan had given $40m to the foundation, money used, among other things, to build wells in Africa. But Kaplan had accused his nephew of misspending as much as US$7m in efforts to “claim that he is the Messiah and to promote his messianic mission.”

The lawsuit was just one battle in a legal war with his uncle over the sale of Leor. Aguiar believed he was due $18m more. Kaplan believed that Aguiar had misappropriated company funds — making inappropriate payments to himself and his family — and wanted Aguiar’s share of the sale returned. The Sentinel dubbed it “the Messiah lawsuit”. 

“They are trying to distract and intimidate me from going on with my life,” Aguiar told them.

There was also the issue of his arrest in Florida on drugs charges. He was arrested in June 2009 on counts of driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and “drug paraphernalia”, thought to be a bong. Aguiar had countered that he had been abused in custody and refused to pay the $536 court charges. “When I got to the prison [a police officer] took my kippah off and then tried to convert me to Christianity,” he told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz in October 2009. “I told him to leave me the fuck alone. He then took me — after blowing triple zeros on my breath test — to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office where they arrested me and beat the shit out of me.” According to the paper, Aguiar said he was wearing a skullcap and a shirt with the word Israel on it at the time of the arrest. The Broward County Sheriff’s office denied the accusations, saying that Aguiar was “combative and verbally abusive” and that he had been “controlled and restrained”.

But now, in an Irish bar in Jerusalem, he looked anything but combative. He looked lost as he swayed from side to side roughly in time with the music. I passed him back his cigarette. 

“If you smoke that every day,” I advised through foggy eyes, “you will go crazy.”

He didn’t hear me. It was the last time I would speak to Guma Aguiar.

On the morning of 14 January 2010, an ambulance and two police cars escorted Guma Aguiar to the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Under orders from his wife, he had been sectioned. Aguiar had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and had, according to his family, suddenly taken a turn for the worse. A few days earlier he had given an interview with a local newspaper in which he had claimed that he was in mobile phone contact with Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas militants and held incommunicado in the Gaza Strip since 2006. No one knew of his whereabouts, not even the Israeli secret service. But Aguiar had claimed he had sneaked into the Gaza Strip and freed Shalit, who was now holed up in one of his properties. 

“I wanted to prove that I could enter Gaza and come out alive and that Shalit could come out alive as well,” he told the Kol Ha’ir newspaper.  “He [Shalit] said that he wants me to tell his family how much he loves them and Israel, and that he hopes this ends soon.”

Within a few weeks it was announced that Aguiar would cease funding Beitar Jerusalem. As he was only sponsoring the club and hadn’t taken full ownership, Arcadi Gaydamak was now in full charge of the football team again. His money had prevented Beitar from going out of business, but his philanthropic journey in Israel was over. Or so it seemed.

“He’s an enigma,” explained Shlomi Barzel, the sports editor of Haaretz. Barzel had met Aguiar shortly before he was sectioned. “He was smoking. I’d met him at a game on Saturday. The day before we had met and had an hour and a half meeting. He could not remember me at all. After a meeting he was coming out of the toilet with white powder all over his nose.” Barzel felt some sympathy for Aguiar. “Was it Jerusalem Syndrome or was it too much powder in the nose?” he asked rhetorically. “The man was a lunatic. I thought it was a question of conscience, how Gaydamak took the money. It was clear to me that Guma wasn’t capable of taking one rational decision. You have to know that, after Gaydamak, there was a period when [Beitar supporters] were not looking for the new king, they were looking for a rich man coming from nowhere.”

Things didn’t go much better back home. According to a Florida court judgement that found against Aguiar in 2010: “Aguiar’s psychosis manifested itself in both grandiose and paranoid delusions. In the spring of 2008, Aguiar expressed the grandiose belief that he is or could be the Messiah. With respect to his paranoid delusions, Aguiar has stated on multiple occasions that Kaplan was trying to kill him. Aguiar believes that he has been poisoned, that he was shot in the back from a helicopter, that snipers have been following him and that the medical staff at an Israeli hospital were injecting him with poison in order to kill him. Aguiar’s bipolar disorder first manifested itself in 1997 when he was Baker Acted [involuntarily detained as per Florida state law] at a Florida psychiatric hospital for approximately 12 days. At the time, Aguiar was 19 years old.”

Most interestingly, the documents claimed, “Aguiar experienced the onset of another manic episode in mid-June 2009 and is still recovering from this episode. From approximately June 2009 through January 2010, Aguiar was also psychotic. Aguiar is presently in treatment for his mental illness.” June 2009 to January 2010 was the exact time Aguiar had been Beitar’s benefactor. It was also stated that Aguiar was abusing “alcohol, marijuana, Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication), Ambien (a sleeping pill), anabolic steroids and OxyContin (an opiate).”

The judgement is disturbing reading. It lays bare a series of misdeeds and failures: email hacking, paranoia, drug abuse, threats, counter threats and spousal abuse. Aguiar was appealing against the decision and had even re-entered the arena of Israeli sports. In 2011 it was announced that he had bought a majority stake in the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team, the team to which he had donated $1.5m two years previously. But as his legal battle with his uncle intensified and his marriage deteriorated (divorce was threatened and counter-threatened; Jamie made accusations of violence against her and her father) Aguiar boarded the TT Zion in June 2012 and disappeared without trace.

What had begun as one of the biggest natural resource windfalls in modern US history had ended in a story of mental illness, betrayal and family breakdown. Within hours of Aguiar’s disappearance his mother Ellen, Kaplan’s estranged sister, had moved to take control of his assets. Aguiar’s largesse, philanthropy, generosity, whatever the rival lawyers wanted to call it, had halved his fortune to an estimated $100m. The speed of the legal manoeuvre raised questions as to what had truly befallen Guma Aguiar. In the aftermath Guma’s wife Jamie and his mother Ellen embarked on a costly legal battle that is ongoing while Thomas Kaplan’s legal team made clear that they held out hope Guma was still alive. But how, in the 21st century, could someone with such a high profile simply disappear without trace? What proof was there? Where could Aguiar go?

“There’s certainly enough evidence that one could deduce that he’s still alive,” explained Jamie Aguiar’s lawyer Bill Scherer, sitting in his smart conference room in Florida. “It would be a nice chapter in a mystery novel... He could have been thrown out [of the boat], drowned and his body swept north and never found. Or he could have stayed in, it drifted to shore, he jumped out the boat and was picked up by someone who was waiting for him. It could have been either/or.”

If Guma Aguiar was alive, where could he possibly go? One theory is the Netherlands. According to Scherer around the time of his disappearance Aguiar’s [unnamed] best friend, who was also a business partner, upped sticks and moved to Amsterdam. Now Aguiar’s sister and brother-in-law had followed suit. 

“The sister and the brother-in-law are in Amsterdam and trying to avoid our process so we can take a deposition and ask them, on oath, whether they know where he is,” said Scherer. “Amsterdam is a place he used to like to go … We learned Guma loved Amsterdam. For obvious reasons...” There was also, according to Scherer, the case of Guma’s missing clothes. “Socks, shoes, custom fitted clothing all removed [from his house in Israel]. Personal items. Things that he would want to have if he was still alive,” he said. “They [whoever removed the clothes] got in without any evidence of forced entry but they cut out all the internal video surveillance. And they would only know how to do that if they knew the set-up.” 

The court battle is set to be long and expensive, depleting what is left of Aguiar’s assets. Without a body, Guma Aguiar will not be declared dead in Florida for another three years, and further two in Israel. Guma’s sister and his uncle and former business partner Thomas Kaplan didn’t respond to requests for an interview. Guma’s mother has denied having any knowledge of her son’s whereabouts and believes that he is dead. It would, after all, be almost impossible to disappear without trace, no matter how much money you have, in today’s wired world. Especially somewhere as small and visible as the Netherlands. It would take astonishing planning; the hiding of assets, a passport from a country with no US extradition treaty (the Netherlands has had one with the USA since 1983), lots of money and a complete break from the technology that dominates our world today. 

“It’s nigh-on impossible to have an existence where you aren’t tracked or traced by technology,” Oliver Crofton, director of technology security firm Vigilante Bespoke, told Spears magazine. “If the person really wanted to hide they’d need to change their name and chuck every device they had in the river. They couldn’t even open any emails, and they certainly couldn’t use a credit card — just a suitcase full of dollars.” 

Beitar survived, just. With Aguiar out of the picture, Gaydamak returned, this time with new friends from his business dealings in Chechnya. In the hope of selling the club to the Chechen oligarch Telman Ismailov — who bankrolls Russian club Terek Grozny, a team inexorably linked with Chechnya’s president Ramzan Kadyrov — Gaydamak arranged for a friendly in Chechnya between Beitar and Terek at the start of the 2012-13 season. When Gaydamak returned, he had two new players to add to Beitar’s squad: Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, both Chechen Muslims. La Familia were furious. When Sadayev scored his first goal for Beitar against Maccabi Netanya, he was booed. Hundreds left the ground immediately in protest. Beitar were nearly relegated too. They headed north to play Bnei Sakhnin — the team that has come to symbolise Israel’s Arab population more than any other and for whom La Familia reserve a special hatred, and vice versa — on the last day of the season knowing that a defeat could send them down. Thousands of police ensured there was no trouble. Beitar and Sakhnin drew 0-0. They survived, by the skin of their teeth.

But with no Guma, dead or alive, the mystery of what happened during those crazy few months in 2009 deepens. When asked whether he has commissioned private detectives to look for Aguiar in the Netherlands Jamie Aguiar’s lawyer replied, “We are ever vigilant to work out whether he is alive. That’s all I can tell you.” But he believes that that mystery of Guma Aguiar’s life, and possible death, will have another chapter. “I can write a script in which Guma says, ‘Look I’ve been in a psychotic state until just recently and then all of a sudden the fog clears and I realise what am I doing out here?’” he said, explaining one possible scenario. “He’d say, ‘I’m well now and, gee, I don’t have any memory of what happened to me over the last year and a half. I’ve had a bi-polar episode.’ Stranger things have happened.”

With a divided family grieving for his return, it would be a fitting end to the story of a man who arrived in Jerusalem to make his mark on the world, hailed and accused of being the Messiah in equal measure: the resurrection of Guma Aguiar.