Israeli police have arrested an American tourist who vandalized two second-century Roman statues at a museum in Jerusalem. The incident occurred late Thursday and the suspect’s lawyer attributed his actions to “Jerusalem syndrome,” a condition where tourists exhibit behaviors associated with Biblical characters. The 40-year-old Jewish-American tourist, whose identity has not been released, claimed that the statues were idolatrous and contrary to the Torah.
The Israel Antiquities Authority’s director, Eli Escusido, described the vandalism as a shocking case of the destruction of cultural values. He expressed concern about the actions of religiously motivated extremists. However, the suspect’s lawyer, Nick Kaufman, denied any religious extremism and stated that his client was suffering from Jerusalem syndrome, an acute psychotic state observed in some tourists visiting Jerusalem.
The man has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation following his arrest. Staff at the Israel Museum alerted the police after witnessing the deliberate smashing and breaking of valuable statues. One of the damaged pieces was the head of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare, while the other was a sculpture of a griffin, a mythological creature representing Nemesis, the Roman goddess of fate and revenge.
The Israel Museum, founded in 1965, is the largest cultural institution in Israel and one of the world’s leading art and archaeology museums. Museum officials described the incident as troubling and unusual, condemning all forms of violence and expressing hope that such incidents will not recur.