American arrested for vandalizing church

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police arrested an American tourist on Thursday for allegedly knocking down and destroying a statue of Jesus in a church in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Images on social media showed the statue lying flat on the floor after being pulled from its church stand. The incident occurred at the Church of the Flagellation on Via Dolorosa, where Jesus is believed to have walked to his crucifixion.

Police said they were arrested with the help of church security guards. A video on his media shows a man sitting on top of the alleged vandal, who said: “You cannot build idols in Jerusalem. This is a holy city.” I heard you.

Police said they were assessing the man’s mental state. The US Embassy declined to comment.

The incident came at a time of heightened tension in Jerusalem and the region after a bloody week. Ten Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military raids in the West Bank. Most of them were combatants, including a 61-year-old woman. A Palestinian man opened fire outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven of him, including a 14-year-old boy.

The unrest has come in the first weeks of Israel’s new far-right government, with some of its ultranationalists and religious followers using inflammatory and anti-Arab rhetoric.

In a statement, Custodia Terrae Sanctae, administrator of the Catholic Church of the Holy Land, said, “This hate crime joins the list of attacks that have targeted Israel’s Christian community in the last month.”

“It is no coincidence that violent dialogue in Israeli society also translates into these grave acts,” it said, calling on Israeli law enforcement agencies to take action to stop such incidents. .

Father Nicodemus Schnabel, of the Dormition Abbey just outside the Old Town, linked the incident with the character of the government.

“Welcome to the new Christian-hating Israel encouraged and supported by the current government!” he tweeted.

Police said they believed the damage to religious sites was serious.