Netanyahu slams ‘unacceptable’ Western Wall body searches
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Netanyahu slams ‘unacceptable’ Western Wall body searches

PM instructs police minister to look into accusations 4 female rabbinical students were asked to lift shirts, skirts when entering holy site

Members of the Women of the Wall group praying outside the entrance to the Western Wall after they were denied entry to the site for refusing to undergo body searches, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling outlawing the searches. January 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)
Members of the Women of the Wall group praying outside the entrance to the Western Wall after they were denied entry to the site for refusing to undergo body searches, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling outlawing the searches. January 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

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.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (left) in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (left) in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

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