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

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

Police said they were alerted to vandalism at the Church of the Scourge on Via Dolorosa.

Social media reports that the damaged statue is of the Scourged Savior.

A video shared on social media shows a security guard struggling with the suspect and then pinning him to the floor of the church until police arrive.

The damaged statue was seen lying on its side.

The suspect, around 40 years old, was taken in for questioning.

Police said they are checking to see if the suspect has mental health issues.

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

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

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

In a statement, the trustee 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 included vandalism at a Christian cemetery, spray painting “Death to Christians” on a monastery wall and vandalism at the Maronite Center in the northern town of Maalot, the statement said.

“We are following with concern this chain of serious events targeting the Christian community in Israel,” the trustee’s statement said. “It is no coincidence that violent discourse in the Israeli public also translates into such serious actions. We expect and urge the Israeli government and law enforcement agencies to 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, resulting in damage to around 30 graves at the Mount Zion site.

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