US tourist arrested for smashing ancient Roman statues in rampage

Saturday, 07/10/2023, 18:17 (GMT+7)

An American tourist was arrested for smashing ancient Roman statues because he considered it 'blasphemous' and 'in violation of the Torah.'

An American tourist visiting Israel has been apprehended in Jerusalem for vandalizing ancient Roman statues, which he deemed 'blasphemous' and 'in violation of the Torah.' The incident occurred during a destructive spree at the Israel Museum.

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Image: Israel Museum

The 40-year-old tourist was taken into custody by Israeli Police yesterday for intentionally causing damage to ancient Roman statues exhibited at the Israel Museum. 

The images, released by authorities, reveal sculptures removed from their pedestals and lying on the museum floor, with one having a severed head and the other broken into several pieces

Then, the suspect was arrested on the museum premises before the arrival of the police, who indicated that the damaged statues held 'sentimental' value.

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Image: Israel Museum

A video was shared, displaying the broken sculptures strewn across the museum floor.

The museum reported that the only two artifacts affected were 'ancient Roman statues dating back to the 2nd century CE,' housed within the archaeology wing.

Subsequently, the suspect was interrogated by the police, who plan to seek a judge's denial of bail.

The preliminary assessment suggests that the man vandalized the statues due to his belief that they conflicted with the teachings of the Torah, as outlined in a police statement. In Judaism, the Torah represents the divine revelation to the Jewish people, encompassing God's revealed teachings and guidance.

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Image: Israel Museum

The statues have been transferred to the museum's conservation laboratory for professional restoration, according to the police statement.

Eli Escusido, the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, commented,  'One statue is a marble depiction of the goddess Athena that was found in excavations at Beit She'an in the 1960s. The second was of the mythological creature Griffin, who was the symbol of divinity in the Roman pagan era and found in the Negev.'

He added, 'This is a shocking case of destruction of cultural heritage. We view with great concern the fact that religious extremists take such action.'

The museum characterized the attack as 'disturbing' and 'severe,' although it assured that it would not impact its regular operations or opening hours. In a statement, the museum condemned all forms of violence and expressed hope that such incidents would not recur.

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Israel Museum. Image Credits:Getty

Police stated that the investigation is ongoing, and the suspect was scheduled to appear before the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday for a potential extension of his detention.

This incident follows a similar case in February when an American tourist was arrested for defacing a statue of Jesus within the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem's Old City.

 The suspect, in his forties, damaged the statue in the Church, located along the historic Via Dolorosa, traditionally believed to be the route Jesus took to his crucifixion