- (Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen)
A security guard at the Western Wall in Jerusalem shot and killed a Jewish Israeli man. He allegedly thought that the man was a Palestinian militant and, after hearing him shout a certain phrase, opened fire.
The guard reportedly opened fire after hearing the man shout "Allahu Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is greatest," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters.
"The fact that he shouted, 'Allahu Akbar,' that seems to be why the security guard drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at him. We are looking into what [the dead man's] motives were."
The victim reportedly had his hand in his pocket at the time he was shot, leading to speculation about his actions at the Wall. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and officials cordoned off the area where he fell.
The Western Wall is one of the holiest areas in Jerusalem and draws thousands of visitors to worship every week. It is a heavily guarded area, given the tense relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Jewish believers pray in front of the stone wall itself, while Muslims pray at the Al Aksa Mosque, which is on the plateau directly above the wall.
Both groups have laid claim to the area in Jerusalem's Old City since it was captured by Israel in 1967. Fights and struggles occasionally break out at the wall, given its significance to both religions. It remains to be seen whether or not the shooting will lead to any uprising or struggle by the Israeli people, given that the victim was shot by one of their own.
Jewish women have begun demanding their right to pray at the wall in a style typically limited to men. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, however, have been in staunch opposition and have protested and prevented the women from praying at the site.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, to examine the issue and find a way to make the site more accommodating to all Jews, male and female alike. Women have continued to pray at the wall, despite the protests. Earlier this month they were able to pray, thanks to police protection, but there is still a large threat against them and much work to be done.
The Israeli government is studying a compromise proposed by Sharansky, who has suggested expanding a nearby site for egalitarian prayer services, which would eliminate the violence towards women and allow them time for prayer.