A violent confrontation broke out at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Thursday, when a delegation of Reform movement leaders tried to hold a Torah-reading service at the site.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, was roughed up by security guards employed at the Western Wall, one of whom threatened to spray him with mace, according to eyewitnesses.
Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group, was accosted by an ultra-Orthodox man, who tried to pull a Torah scroll out of her hands.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, was detained for questioning by police after the incident, which he described as “one of the most violent” he ever witnessed at the Jewish holy site.
About 150 Reform Jews, both from Israel and overseas, arrived at the Western Wall in the morning to participate in a special prayer and Torah-reading service in honor of four new rabbis scheduled to be ordained by the movement at a special ceremony on Thursday evening. The delegation included the entire board of governors of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, which ordains Reform rabbis in Israel.
“Many of those holding Torah scrolls were hit and punched by the guards,” said Kariv. “I saw Rabbi Rick Jacobs taking the brunt of the blows.”
“While I was holding the Torah scroll, an ultra-Orthodox man came at me from behind and tried to grab it out of my hand,” Hoffman told Haaretz. “I shouted for help, and some of my colleagues came and were able to pull him off me.”