US tourist arrested for vandalizing statue in church in Jerusalem’s Old City

An American tourist was arrested Thursday on suspicion of vandalizing a church statue in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israel Police said.

Police said they were informed of vandalism at the Church of the Flagellation on Via Dolorosa street.

Social media reported that the damaged statue was that of the scourged Saviour.

Video shared on social media showed a security guard grappling with the suspect, then pinning him to the ground inside the church until police arrived.

The damaged statue was seen lying on its side.

The suspect, in his 40s, was taken in for questioning.

Police said they are checking whether the suspect has any mental health issues.

“We take damage to religious institutions and sites very seriously,” the police statement said. “Police will continue to act against acts of violence and vandalism at holy sites of all religions.”

The Custody of the Holy Land, which represents the Vatican, identified the suspect as “a religious American Jew” and said the incident was a “hate crime” that “joins a series of attacks all directed against the Christian public in Israel that occurred in the last month.”

A toppled statue in the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 2, 2023. (Custody of the Holy Land)

In a statement, the Guardian said it was the fifth incident of violence against the church in recent weeks, after a group of religious Jews attacked tourists in the Christian Quarter last week. Other incidents include vandalism at a Christian cemetery, the spraying of “Death to Christians” on the wall of a monastery, and vandalism at the Maronite center in the northern town of Ma’alot, a- he added.

“We follow with concern this chain of serious events directed against the Christian community in Israel,” the Guardian’s statement said. “It is no coincidence that the violent rhetoric in the Israeli public also translates into such serious acts. We expect and demand that the Israeli government and law enforcement act decisively to eradicate these serious incidents. »

Last month, two Jewish-Israeli teenagers were arrested on suspicion of vandalism at a Christian cemetery in Jerusalem, which damaged about 30 graves at the Mount Zion site.

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