American tourist arrested for damaging Roman statues.
Israeli police have arrested an American tourist at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem after he caused “substantial damage” to prized ancient sculptures.
According to The Times of Israel, the 40-year-old visitor said he had defaced the statues because he viewed them as being “idolatrous” and “contrary to the Torah.”
The man’s lawyer, Nick Kaufman, denied that the tourist had acted out of religious fanaticism.
Instead, Kaufman said, the man was suffering from a mental disorder that psychiatrists have labelled the Jerusalem syndrome.
The condition is believed to cause foreign pilgrims who visit Jerusalem, a city considered sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, to believe they are figures from the Bible.
Photos released by authorities showed two sculptures that had been knocked off of pedestals and broken into pieces in the museum’s archaeology wing.
Eli Escusido, head of Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “One statue is a marble depiction of the goddess Athena that was found in excavations at Beit She’an in the 1960s. The second was of the mythological creature, Griffin, who was the symbol of divinity in the Roman pagan era and found in the Negev.”
“This is a shocking case of destruction of cultural heritage. We view with great concern the fact that religious extremists take such action,” he said.
Israeli law enforcement announced that the investigation is ongoing and that the American suspect is scheduled to appear before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Tensions have been simmering in Jerusalem in recent months, with Christian worshippers claiming they have been spat on and assaulted by radical ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Earlier in the year, a Jewish American tourist damaged a statue of Jesus at a Christian pilgrimage site in the Old City.
In another incident, Jewish teenagers defaced historical Christian tombstones at a prominent Jerusalem cemetery.