'Unacceptable': Netanyahu slams Wailing Wall body searches of women


Israeli prime minister demands investigation after four women are subject to thorough security searches at Western Wall plaza

Women of the Wall host an egalitarian prayer service at the Wailing Wall (AFP)
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Sunday 27 August 2017 23:02 UTC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described body searches of female worshippers at the entrance to the Western Wall in Jerusalem as "unacceptable".

The condemnation came after four female religious students, including two Americans, were told to lift their shirts and skirts by security personnel on Wednesday.

The women were questioned and pulled aside before being allowed to enter the Western Wall plaza, where an egalitarian prayer service was taking place. 

The service was hosted by the Women of the Wall, a group that fights for women to pray out loud at the Wailing wall, the holiest site for Jews. 

Netanyahu asked Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan to look into accusations according to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office. 

The women were among a group of 15 rabbinical, cantorial and Jewish education students from North America and Australia, according to Haaretz

Around 200 men and women held the egalitarian service at the plaza behind the men's and women's sections. 

Erdan told Netanyahu that no complaints had been filed with the police, the statement said. 

He also said that if a complaint is filed it will be “thoroughly checked".

Both officials did, however, say they "agreed that this [incident] took place as they described, it is unacceptable and will be addressed in accordance with the law and the instructions of the court," the statement said. 

Earlier this week, leaders of major Jewish reform groups in America called on Netanyahu to issue a "swift and clear denunciation" of the female body searches. 

Western Wall security did not say what they were looking for, according to the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement. 

Security practices towards women at the Western Wall plaza have been a long source of contention between reform and conservative Jewish groups. 

In the past, security guards at the Western Wall have detained women and searched for Torah scrolls and other religious items they consider inappropriate for women to bring to the wall. 

In January, Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that women are not to be subject to intense body searches when entering the Western Wall.