American Tourist Arrested In Israel For Allegedly Smashing Ancient Sculptures

(Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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Israeli police arrested an American tourist Thursday for allegedly smashing two ancient sculptures in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, according to reports.

The 40-year-old tourist, whose name is being withheld due to a gag order, was reportedly a radical with iconoclastic motives who considered the statues “idolatrous and contrary to the Torah,” the police alleged, according to the Associated Press (AP). The tourist’s lawyer, Nick Kaufman, however, reportedly contended that his client was suffering from Jerusalem syndrome, a mental condition which involves religiously themed obsessive ideas or experiences triggered by a visit to the holy city. Authorities reportedly ordered the tourist to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The affected artworks were a second-century head of the Greek goddess Athena and a statue of the Roman god Nemesis in the form of a griffin holding a wheel of fate, dated to 210-211, the Times of Israel reported. The statues were discovered in 1978 and 1957, respectively, in Israel and were in the museum’s archaeology wing. The tourist had reportedly been wandering about in the museum with a stick which he allegedly used to knock down the statues. (RELATED: Authorities Seek Tourist Accused Of Defacing Ancient Roman Landmark)

Jerusalem syndrome is of three types based on the presence or absence of an underlying psychiatric or personality disorder and could affect tourists traveling alone or in groups, a study published by Cambridge University Press showed. Patients are typically referred to the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre in Jerusalem, reportedly famous for its foundational research on the syndrome.

The museum, calling the incident “worrying” and “severe,” transferred the affected sculptures to its conservation laboratory for professional restoration, per the Times of Israel. The museum remained open.

The incident occurred on the penultimate day of the week-long Jewish celebration of Sukkot. Many tourists, particularly from North America, usually visit Israel during the period, the Times of Israel noted.