Body searches of female worshipers at the entrance to the Western Wall are “unacceptable,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday.
Netanyahu asked Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to look into accusations that at least four female rabbinical students were subject to body searches while attempting to enter the Western Wall Plaza, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The students from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, including two Americans, were on Wednesday asked to lift their shirts and skirts for security before being allowed to enter the Western Wall plaza, where an egalitarian prayer service was being held.
The four said they were questioned and pulled aside into a private room. The women were among a group of 15 rabbinical, cantorial and Jewish education students from North America and Australia who joined about 200 men and women in an egalitarian service held Wednesday morning on the plaza behind the men’s and women’s sections. The egalitarian service took place following the monthly Rosh Hodesh service of the Women of the Wall group.
בידוק סלקטיבי הבוקר בכותל המערבי: נשות התנועה הרפורמית טוענות שהן מתבקשות להרים חצאיות וחולצות כדי לוודא שלא הבריחו ספרי תורה pic.twitter.com/d1Forisp4M
— אוריה אלקיים (@uriyaelk) August 23, 2017
Erdan told Netanyahu that no complaint had been filed with police, the statement said. Erdan also said that if a complaint is filed it will be “thoroughly checked.”
Netanyahu and Erdan “agreed that if this indeed took place as described, it is unacceptable and will be addressed in accordance with the law and the instructions of the court,” the statement also said.
The IRAC said Wednesday it would submit formal complaints about the body searches on the students.
Western Wall security did not say what they were looking for, according to the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement. Western Wall officials in the past have detained women and searched for Torah scrolls and other religious items they consider inappropriate for women to bring to the wall.
In January, the High Court of Justice ruled that women are not to be subjected to intense body searches when entering the Western Wall.
Leaders of the Reform movement said in a statement Thursday that they sent a letter to Netanyahu, calling on the prime minister to “issue a swift and clear denunciation” of what they called the “degrading” searches.