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Third Cemetery Vandal Arrested; Police Wonder if It’s Contagious

May 18, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Police were not prepared to say Thursday whether the recent spate of cemetery desecrations by Jews in Israel is a contagious fad spreading among the mentally deranged.

That possibility arose when a third Jewish man was detained on suspicion of cemetery vandalism.

Two Jews, described as mentally aberrant, already are in custody for allegedly overturning over 300 headstones at two Haifa cemeteries last weekend.

A householder who lives next to a cemetery in the Lod area east of Tel Aviv telephoned the police early Thursday morning, to report a stranger wandering the neighborhood breaking windows and mumbling to himself.

Police who detained the individual said he talked about cemeteries. An inspection disclosed upturned gravestones and broken flower urns in the military section of a nearby burial ground.

Police also found a wristwatch on one grave, which the 24-year-old suspect admitted belonged to him. Police said the man seemed “unbalanced.” He led them to an iron bar, which he said he used to pry loose flower urns and ornaments.

This suspect, like the first arrested on Monday, also reportedly told police he was an “emissary of the messiah,” and was acting in response to the desecration of Jews graves in Carpentras in southern France last week. He did not explain why he targeted Jewish graves.

He was sent for a psychiatric examination.

The other suspects, David Goldner and Gershon Tennenbaum, both residents of the Haifa Bay area, identified themselves as ba’al teshuvim– returnees to Orthodox Judaism– and members of messianic sects. Both are said to have prior histories of mental aberration.

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