The tourist was caught breaking Roman statues in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Israeli police have arrested a Jewish American tourist after he was caught throwing works of art on the floor late on Thursday night at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The 40-year-old suspect defaced two ancient Roman statues from the 2nd century AD. After questioning, Israeli police say the suspect considered the statues "to be idolatrous and contrary to the Torah."
The man's lawyer Nick Kaufman denied his client as a religious fanatic and instead said the tourist was suffering from a mental disorder that psychiatrists have labelled the Jerusalem syndrome. The condition — a form of disorientation believed to be induced by the religious magnetism of the city, which is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims — is said to cause foreign pilgrims to believe they are figures from the Bible.
The defendant has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Officials did not release his name due to a gag order.
The prominent Israel Museum, with its exhibits of archaeology, fine arts, and Jewish art and life, described Thursday's vandalism as a “troubling and unusual event,” and said it “condemns all forms of violence and hopes such incidents will not recur.”
Museum photos showed the marble head of the goddess Athena knocked off its pedestal onto the floor and a statue of a pagan deity shattered into fragments. The damaged statues were being restored, museum staff said. The museum declined to offer the value of the statues or cost of destruction.
The Israeli government expressed alarm over the defacement, which officials also attributed to Jewish iconoclasm in obedience to early prohibitions against idolatry.
“This is a shocking case of the destruction of cultural values,” said Eli Escusido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We see with concern the fact that cultural values are being destroyed by religiously motivated extremists.”