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6 Oct, 2023 19:01

'Religious fanatic' goes on rampage in Israeli museum 

US tourist’s lawyer claims “Jerusalem syndrome” made him wreck two ancient Roman statues
'Religious fanatic' goes on rampage in Israeli museum 

An American visiting Jerusalem has been arrested after smashing two ancient Roman statues at the Israel Museum on Thursday evening. Police said the suspect had called the damaged pieces “idolatrous and contrary to the Torah,” the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

“This is a shocking case of destruction of cultural heritage. We view with great concern the fact that religious extremists take such action,” said Eli Escusido, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Escusido, one of the damaged statues is a marble depiction of Minerva from the second century, discovered in 1978 at Tel Naharon near Beit She’an. The second statue is a griffin holding a wheel of fate, representing the Roman-Egyptian deity Nemesis, which was found in 1957 in the northern Negev desert. 

Police have identified the perpetrator as a 40-year-old “radical Jewish American tourist,” according to AP, but have not provided his name. The defendant has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Attorney Nick Kaufman denied that his client had acted out of religious fanaticism, however. He blamed the “Jerusalem syndrome.” According to the Times of Israel, the condition involves “religiously-themed delusions or psychosis triggered by a visit to Jerusalem,” affects visitors to the city considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and “usually resolves upon departure from Israel.”

The museum reopened at the regularly scheduled time on Friday morning. Museum officials declined to offer an estimate of the damages or the value of the statues, saying only that they have been sent to be restored.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced “derogatory conduct” towards any religion, after a video surfaced online showing ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City. Five people were arrested in relation to the incident.

In February this year, another Jewish-American tourist pulled down and damaged a statue of Jesus inside the Church of the Flagellation, on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City. A month prior, several Christian tombstones at the Mount Zion cemetery were vandalized by two Jewish youths.