Reform leaders attempt to enter Western Wall Plaza
Reform leaders attempt to enter Western Wall PlazaFLASH90

JTA- Rick Jacobs and other Reform Jewish leaders clashed with security guards as they tried to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The guards and haredi worshipers tussled with the group Thursday as it entered the Western Wall plaza with Torah scrolls. Reform leaders accused the haredi administration of the holy site, which employs the guards, of denying their right to freedom of prayer.

Israeli Reform leader Gilad Kariv, speaking to Israel’s Hadashot news, accused the administration of acting like “thugs” and said the violence “will not stop us from fulfilling our right to pray at the Western Wall.”

Kariv and others saw Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, being manhandled and threatened by guards, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

“Many of those holding Torah scrolls were hit and punched by the guards,” Kariv said. “I saw Rabbi Rick Jacobs taking the brunt of the blows.”

The group included the entire board of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and members of the Women of the Wall feminist prayer group.

Western Wall administrators accused the Reform leaders of flouting the rules of the prayer plaza “with the aim of creating a provocation and using it to push public relations.”

“This provocative act at the Western Wall plaza, a place of unity, was a physically and verbally violent campaign at the site,” the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said in a statement. “We protest this unacceptable behavior, the violence, and strongly condemn it.”

The brief fracas caused no injuries. In the end, the group broke through the guards and held a service in the plaza.

The Western Wall prayer plaza, administered by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, enforces traditional customs at the holy site, including gender-separate prayer spaces, and bars non-traditional prayer groups from using religious items, including Torah scrolls.