'Riot police knocked Torah scroll to the ground'

Witnesses claim police assaulted worshipers, knocked down Torah in order to help Christians enter King David's Tomb.

Yedidya Ben-Or ,

Jewish worshipers at David's Tomb
Jewish worshipers at David's Tomb

Six Jews were detained for questioning on Monday morning, while trying to prevent Christians from entering prayer services at King David's Tomb.

The worshipers claim that police violently hit them. A video released by the legal defense organization Honenu shows a police officer kicking one person to the ground.

Honenu is providing legal assistance to the detainees, two of whom were taken before a court. One suspect ordered away from the area for a month, while the second was released on bail. Ze'ev Wolf will represent both of them.

Rehavia Pilz, another lawyer from Honenu, also sent a letter to the police commander responsible for the area, in which he described officers knocking a Torah scroll onto the ground.

"I wanted to update you about the serious incident which occurred in the facility," he wrote. "During today's events in one of the halls, a Jewish man held a Torah scroll for prayer (on Mondays Jews read from a Torah scroll during the morning prayers). A Yasam riot police officer pushed him and the Torah scroll fell to the ground.

"This is a very traumatic occurrence for Jews who keep mitzvot, and they even fast on account of it. A minor who brought it to the officers' attention was immediately arrested. Aside from this, the officers acted very violently against the worshipers, who were protesting in a legitimate and legal manner. I ask that you treat these incidents seriously."

The rabbis who oversee David's Tomb also stated: "We regret that the agreements the Israel Police made with representatives of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Holy Places are only partially upheld. We are sorry that we were taken inside to see that the agreement was supposedly honored, but only after they brought in outsiders who disgraced David's Tomb and the synagogue which is inside of it. We regret that the assurances to release the prisoners, except for one who allegedly physically attacked a cop, were not honored. We are appealing to the police commanders and ask them to respect David's Tomb and release all of the prisoners. Our souls have taken more than enough today." 

A spokesperson with the police responded: "Contrary to what was written in the letter, officers never knocked a Torah scroll to the floor. During the incident five suspects were detained for questioning after they disturbed the peace, attacked and even spit on officers.

"Contrary to what was written in the letter, the whole issue of prayer was coordinated with local officials. In any case, no mass took place. We wish to state that this was an incident aimed at upholding the status quo from 1948 which permits five prayers (and no masses) for the Christian communities in the Last Supper Room, and a short prayer once per year in David's Tomb, which is what occurred today. We view violence against police officers as a serious matter and all those involved will be brought to justice. I wish to state that all those involved who were detained for questioning were released under restrictive conditions."