Ultra-Orthodox Jews pelted Jewish men and women with bags of excrement and rocks for praying together Wednesday near the Western Wall.
A group of Conservative and Reform Jews carried a Torah scroll to the wall to mark Shavuot, a holiday to commemorate Moses’ receiving of the Ten Commandments, angering ultra-Orthodox also at the Wall.
The ultra-Orthodox believe men and women must not worship together.
“When women started reading from the Torah, they went from trying to drown us out to pushing, shoving, yelling and spitting,” said Martha Hausman, 35, a visiting graduate student from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
Shavuot is one of three holidays when Jews traditionally visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site and the last remnant of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
In line with ultra-Orthodox tradition, the wall is divided into prayer sections for men and women, with the view between the two sides blocked.
When the Conservative and Reform Jews arrived in front of the prayer area, ultra-Orthodox Jews began shouting “Nazis! Nazis!” and hurled stones and bags of excrement at them from balconies of nearby Jewish seminaries, said police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. He said one bag hit a worshiper.
Police escorted the Conservative and Reform Jews out of the area. Ben-Ruby said the assailants could not be identified because they quickly disappeared into their seminaries.
Reform and Conservative Jews, who account for nearly all the 6 million Jews in the United States, have been trying to gain a foothold in Israel where the more rigid Orthodox stream of Judaism dominates.
Ultra-Orthodox political parties are key members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
Also Wednesday, a group of ultra-Orthodox youth leaving the Western Wall after prayers went on a rampage in the Arab sector of the city, smashing windshields and mirrors of 10 Arab-owned cars, Ben-Ruby said.