Israeli police arrested an American tourist at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Thursday for smashing prized Greco-Roman statues.
The individual, identified as a 40-year-old American man, remained under investigation for deliberately defacing the invaluable sculptures, according to law enforcement authorities. Initial questioning indicated that the tourist had targeted these Greco-Roman statues because he deemed them “idolatrous” and in opposition to the Torah (Old Testament).
Visual evidence published by the museum depicted at least two sculptures in a damaged state. They were found lying on the museum floor with their pedestals toppled.
Tourist’s Lawyer Blames Jerusalem Syndrome
Representing the accused, attorney Nick Kaufman clarified that the sculptures in question were second-century masterpieces. He asserted that the motivation behind the act did not stem from religious extremism. According to him, the tourist smashed them due to a mental health condition known as “Jerusalem syndrome.” This state is known to affect foreign pilgrims who visit Jerusalem, leading them to believe they embody figures from the Bible.
— Reality Matters-Whether You Believe In It Or Not (@IainSim55659177) October 6, 2023
Kaufman further disclosed that his client had been referred for psychiatric evaluation with the authorities’ consent.
The attorney had initially requested the non-disclosure of the suspect’s identity, a request that was initially denied by a magistrate. However, the final decision on the matter has been postponed until the following Sunday. Both law enforcement officials and Kaufman anticipated the American tourist’s release from pre-trial detention on Monday.
Which Greco-Roman Statues Were Smashed
In a separate police statement, it was disclosed that officers were summoned to the Israel Museum on Thursday evening after a visitor deliberately shattered and extensively damaged numerous sculptures.
Among the damaged artworks were a head of goddess Athena from the 2nd century CE and a statue of a griffin clutching the wheel of fate, symbolizing the Greek and Roman goddess Nemesis, dated to 210-211 CE. The second statue, as evident from published photographs, was broken into numerous fragments. The suspect was detained by a museum security guard before police arrived at the scene.
The Israel Museum confirmed that the defaced artifacts were ancient Greco-Roman statues from the 2nd century CE, prominently displayed in the archaeology wing. The damaged sculptures have since been transferred to the museum’s conservation laboratory for meticulous restoration.
The director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Eli Escusido, described the incident as a “shocking case of the destruction of cultural values.” He also expressed concerns that such significant ancient artifacts are at risk of being destroyed by “religiously motivated extremists.”