Skip to main content

Jerusalem: Christian pilgrimage site attacked by 'American tourist'

Israel blames attack on 'mentally impaired' tourist while Palestinian officials said it was part of plan to erase the Christian and Muslim identity of Jerusalem
A view of the Flagellation Church in Jerusalem's Old City (Wikimedia commons)

A major Catholic church and pilgrimage site in Jerusalem was attacked on Thursday, in an incident Israeli officials said was caused by a "mentally impaired" American tourist.

Videos released on social media appeared to show a man being wrestled to the floor next to a toppled statue of Jesus Christ at the Church of the Flagellation in the Old City.

The man was later detained by Israeli police, who in a statement said: "An American tourist was arrested on suspicion of vandalising and destroying a statue in a church in the Old City of Jerusalem."

A cleric who worked in the church condemned the attack, blaming it on anti-Christian attitudes being tolerated by the Israeli government.

"Welcome to the new Christian-hating Israel, encouraged and supported by the current government," tweeted Nikodemus Schnabel, Benedictine monk and spokesperson for the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.

jesus statue jerusalem
Footage released on social media showed a broken Jesus statue in the Church of the Flagellation (Arab48)

The Palestinian foreign ministry said the attack was part of Israel's plan to "Judaise the holy sites" and erase the Christian and Muslim identity of Jerusalem. 

Attacks on Christian sites in Israel and the occupied territories have become increasingly common in recent years.

Last month, Israeli youths vandalised a Christian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem over the New Year holidays, smashing crosses and knocking down headstones on more than 30 graves.

Security camera footage showed at least two vandals breaking into the cemetery and smashing crosses, throwing big rocks and pieces of marble onto the graves, and destroying iconography. 

In December 2021, patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem warned that "Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups", referring to Israeli far-right activists.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.