An American tourist was taken into custody by Israeli police at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem following allegations of causing significant damage to priceless ancient sculptures. The suspect, identified only as a 40-year-old American man, reportedly vandalized the statues, citing their perceived idolatrous nature and contradiction with the Torah. As the investigation into the “deliberate defacement of valuable sculptures” continues, the tourist remained in police custody on Friday. Photos from the Israel Museum revealed at least two damaged statues lying on the floor with toppled podiums. According to the suspect’s lawyer, Nick Kaufman, the statues in question were second-century Roman sculptures.
Kaufman maintained that his client’s actions were not driven by religious fanaticism but rather stemmed from a mental health condition known as “Jerusalem syndrome.” This condition can lead foreign pilgrims visiting Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, to believe they are figures from the Bible. Kaufman stated, “His acts prior to the incident and general demeanor suggest that he is suffering from a well-recognized condition known as the Jerusalem syndrome.” The suspect has been referred for psychiatric evaluation with the authorities’ agreement.
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The suspect’s lawyer also requested that his client’s name be kept confidential. Initially rejected by a magistrate, the request is now pending a final decision, which has been postponed to the following Sunday to allow Kaufman time to file an appeal. Both the police and Kaufman anticipate the suspect’s release from pre-trial detention on Monday.