An American citizen was arrested in Jerusalem for having damaged and knocked over a statue of Jesus Christ in the Chapel of Condemnation, inside the complex of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation, the first stop on the Via Dolorosa.
“An American tourist suspected of vandalizing a statue in a church in the Old City of Jerusalem has been arrested”, the Israeli police announced, specifying that an investigation will be opened. The man’s mental health will also be assessed. “We treat damage to religious institutions and sites seriously. The police will continue to act against acts of violence and vandalism in sacred places of all religions”, underlines the statement.
Police say they made the arrest with the help of a chapel guardian. The arrested man is described as “a Jewish extremist” by the Patriarchal Vicar Father Nicodemus Schnabel, who tweeted images of the overturned and scarred wooden statue, as well as a video of the vandal pinned to the ground by a guard.
Majid al-Rishq, one of the chapel guards, told Turkish news agency Anadolu that he had seen the American several times in the area in recent days. Today the man, who was wearing a Jewish kippah on his head, entered the sacred place together with two groups of tourists, one of Spaniards, the other of Indonesians. During the visit, loud shouts were heard and al-Rishq rushed to the scene, managing to block the man who was hitting the statue with a hammer. The American also tried to hit the guardian with the hammer, but he overwhelmed him.
“We follow with concern and firmly condemn this growing sequence of serious acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community in Israel”, underlines the Custody of the Holy Land, in a note signed by fra Francesco Patton and the secretary father Alberto Joan Pari.
The Custody speaks of a “hate crime” against the faith connected “to the series of attacks” directed against Christians in Israel “in the last month”. The Custody recalls that “it is no coincidence that the legitimation of discrimination and violence in public opinion and in the current Israeli political scenario also translates into acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community. We expect and ask that the Israeli government and law enforcement agencies act decisively to guarantee security for all communities, to guarantee the protection of religious minorities and to eradicate religious fanaticism, these serious phenomena of intolerance, these hate crimes, and acts of vandalism directed against Christians in Israel”.