An American Jewish tourist was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly vandalized and destroyed two ancient statues in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The man who was described to be in his 40s told the police that the statues were against the Torah. They were Roman statues from the second century and were part of the museum's regular exhibit.
The American's actions were detected by museum security guards who detained him and awaited the police. "This is an unusual incident," the museum said in a statement.
"We condemn all forms of violence and hope such events do not happen again," the said. The statues were taken to the restoration department for repair.
"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," Eli Escusido, head of Israel Antiquities Authority said. "This is a shocking case of destruction of cultural heritage. We view with great concern the fact that religious extremists take such action," he said.
An American tourist destroyed a statue of Jesus in the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem's Old City, earlier this year. He too claimed religious sensibilities saying there cannot be idols in the city holy to Jews.
Religious Jews have been attacking Christian sites and clergy, hurling stones at them and spitting at them claiming they were following a years-long Jewish custom. Israeli religious leaders and politicians condemned the attacks and the police said they were taking steps to arrest culprits and prevent such incidents.
In an interview on Tuesday, Father Francesco Patton, the Vatican's Custodian of the Christian Holy sites in Israel said attacks against Christians and Christian churches and monasteries were being extensively reported around the world and could bring about a rise in antisemitism.