Jewish Agency calls on police to protect non-Orthodox worshippers at Western Wall


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog has called on the Israeli national police to take action in the wake of several violent incidents in which haredi Orthodox worshippers harassed and threatened members of non-Orthodox denominations at the Western Wall.

Writing to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Acting Police Chief Motti Cohen, Herzog demanded an investigation into the harassment and the arrest of those found responsible. His letter comes less than two weeks after Yizhar Hess, who runs the Conservative movement in Israel, was threatened by a mob of haredi Orthodox men calling for his death and dismemberment.

Confronting the men, Hess responded that murder is a biblical prohibition. He later filed a police complaint.

Haredi worshippers frequently clash with non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, spitting and yelling insults at the holy site, which is de facto under haredi control.

Herzog’s letter said “a line was crossed” in the case of Hess.

“The police must do everything in their power to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and to guarantee the safety of all worshipers, regardless of religion, stream, or sex,” the letter said. “Suspects must be arrested and brought to justice so that worshipers are not exposed to acts of bullying, the end result of which cannot be predicted.”

Citing the murder of 16-year old Shira Banki at Jerusalem’s 2015 pride parade, Herzog called on the police to “discourage these thugs before it is too late, because the determination of violent extremists must not be underestimated.”

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