DiCaprio visit to Western Wall triggers unholy fracas

Photo journalists file complaint with police; bodyguards file counter-complaint.

bar raphaeli 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy )
bar raphaeli 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy )
An Israeli news photographer who says he was hit by model Bar Rafaeli's father has filed a police complaint and a civil claim against Rafi Rafaeli for allegedly damaging his photo equipment at the end of a visit to the Western Wall on Monday night. Raffi Rafaeli accompanied his daughter and her boyfriend, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, on a tour of the Western Wall and its adjacent tunnels. Several other news photographers filed complaints against the couple's bodyguards, who allegedly hit them, damaged their equipment and used force to prevent them from taking pictures of the celebrities. DiCaprio's first visit to Israel will probably not be remembered fondly. It was exceptionally violent and, above all, unorganized. "Rafaeli's entourage arrived at the Western Wall in two vans. On their initiative, with no coordination, they blocked the lot that leads to the Western Wall tunnels. Together with two private bodyguards and the Western Wall security people, they just didn't let us through," said Orel Cohen, a photographer who works for Flash 90, Ma'ariv's photo agency. "When they came out of the Western Wall tunnels, we were still outside and Rephaeli's father stood in the front and spoke to me rudely. I was standing 20-30 centimeters away from him and kept silent. When his daughter and DiCaprio went into the car, I was trying to shoot, but he grabbed my finger and twisted it, and then he punched me hard in the chest. As a result, I fell to the ground. One of the Western Wall security guards helped me to stand up and I saw that my equipment was broken," Cohen said. He and the rest of the photo journalists filed a police complaint right after the incident. "I've worked as a news photographer in Jerusalem for five years and I've shot many celebrities and famous people from all over the world who visited the Western Wall, a public place. I have never seen such a brutal, savage security team, which was incited by Rephaeli's father and acted like we were the guests and not the other way around," Cohen said. "I arrived right after they [Bar Rephaeli and DiCaprio] entered the Western Wall tunnels and waited outside with the rest of the photographers for them to come out," said another news photographer who works for a foreign news agency and asked to remain anonymous. "When they came out, Rephaeli's father and the two bodyguards started shoving and pushing everyone who was in their way. One of them grabbed me and threw me against the wall. My left hand was injured, but I kept shooting while DiCaprio and Rephaeli snuck into the van. "When the van drove inside the tunnel that leads to the Muslim Quarter, a commotion started and their bodyguards literally started hitting and punching the photographers. We called a police officer who was in the area and demanded he detain the bodyguards. We all went to the nearest police station to file a complaint." "None of us are paparazzi photographers, we take photos of celebrities at the Western Wall all the time; this is a public and open site. We didn't ambush them near their home or in a cafe, there is a big difference. Unlike paparazzi photographers, none of us make extra money from these kind of pictures. It's regular news coverage, which in this case lasted longer then we all expected or wanted," she said. The Western Wall spokesman said Tuesday that the pair's visit was not coordinated in advance and that their representative called the supervisor of the Western Wall when they were already on their way to Jerusalem. "No lot was closed due to the couple's visit. The entrance to the Western Wall tunnels was closed to the photographers due to structural dangers. DiCaprio enjoyed his tour of the Western Wall tunnels and was very excited to hear about the Jewish history, but he refused to be photographed, even for the Western Wall's Web site, which all the celebrities who came here in the past didn't mind," the spokesman said. Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Rubi said that the police only learned of the visit when the photographers report the alleged assaults. "Complaints were filed against Rephaeli's father, who will be called in and investigated, and against her bodyguards, who were detained and investigated right after the incident." The bodyguards filed complaints against the photographers as well. "We are checking the photos and videotapes that were shot there and we are investigating the complaints," Ben-Rubi said.