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The Associated Press

American tourist arrested for vandalizing Catholic church in Jerusalem

By The Associated Press,

A damaged statue of Jesus in the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem's Old City, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. Israeli police on Thursday arrested an American tourist after he allegedly knocked down and broke a statue of Jesus in a church in Jerusalem's Old City. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

CLAIM: An Israeli settler knocked down and broke a statue of Jesus in a church in Jerusalem’s Old City.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. An American tourist was arrested for allegedly knocking down and breaking the statue, not an Israeli settler, according to Associated Press reporting.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a video of a man restraining the alleged vandal who broke a statue of Jesus at the Church of the Flagellation, a Christian pilgrimage site in the Old City.

The video shows a man attempting to restrain the alleged vandal as the person filming shouts to call the police. The video also shows the statue of Jesus laying damaged on the floor. The man being restrained is heard saying, “You can’t have idols in Jerusalem, this is the holy city.”

“Watch: A Palestinian man bravely confronts a colonial Israeli settler who stormed and vandalized the church of “Prison of Christ” in the old city of occupied Jerusalem,” reads one post on Twitter sharing the video.

Another Twitter post shared screenshots from the video and stated: “Just in: An Israeli settler broke into a church in the old city of Jerusalem and toppled/smashed statue depicting Jesus. Muslim man subdued settler.”

But the man arrested on Thursday was an American tourist. Police said the man’s mental health was being assessed.

The Church of the Flagellation is located on the Via Dolorosa, the route believed to have been walked by Jesus to his crucifixion.

The incident came as tensions run high and violence has spiked in Jerusalem and the region. An Israeli military raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians, mostly militants but also a 61-year-old woman last Thursday. A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem killed seven people, including a 14-year-old last Friday.

The Custodia Terrae Sanctae, which is the Catholic Church’s custodians of holy sites in the Holy Land, said in a statement that, “this hate crime joins a list of attacks all of which targeted the Christian community in Israel in the past month.”


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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