Soldier Who Shot Up Church to Have Psychiatric Evaluation

A Tel Aviv court has ordered that the Israeli soldier who opened fire in a Jaffa church this week undergo psychiatric testing to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Haniel Koren, 21, was arrested after he opened fire in St. Anthony’s Church. No one was hurt, but Monday’s shooting set off two days of rioting in the mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood.

In a preliminary hearing, Koren told the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court that he had acted out of religious motives.

“I was acting according to the Torah, which instructs us to destroy symbols of idol worship,” he said.

He told the court that he was rational and fully aware of the consequences of his acts.

Israeli leaders roundly condemned the shooting at the church. Police Minister Moshe Shahal said the state would cover all repair costs.

Religious Affairs Minister Shimon Shetreet met with Christian leaders Wednesday and apologized for the incident in the name of the government.

Shetreet said the government would look for ways to step up security at holy sites. Young people in Israel would be taught more about the Christian faith, he added.

Koren was raised in a non-religious home, but in recent months became an observant Jew. Police described Koren as a bright, but troubled young man.

His mother, a psychiatric nurse, apologized to the Christian community for her son’s acts.

“This isn’t the way I brought up my son,” Vivian Koren said. “I appeal to the entire Christian community on my behalf, of my son Haniel, my children and his father. We apologize for the injustice and unpleasantness caused them.”

Koren also confessed to involvement in a fire last week at the Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem, police said. In that incident, an organ in the church was set on fire.

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