Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the skirmish took place at the site which is revered by Jews as the tomb of the biblical King David and by Christians as the site of Jesus' Last Supper.
The Jewish protestors said the Christian worshippers were desecrating the holy site and violating the Jews' right to pray there, but Vatican representatives denied the claims and referred to the incident as "grave."
This wasn't the first protest at the Mount Zion compound. Last week and on Sunday, dozens of Jewish protesters also attempted to block Christian prayer there for the holiday of Pentecost and were forcibly removed. One of the people behind the protest, Prof. Hillel Weiss, was detained Sunday.
"This isn't a protest," Weiss told Ynet on Monday. "Jews come to pray at Zion, at a holy site, a very internal and intimate place. The priests arrive there to forcibly impose their pagan ceremony, in a place which is sacred to the Jews, and they do it with police enforcement. This is an intolerable situation. So it was our full right to ward off the invaders."
'Masses have never been held here'
The Custodia of Terra Santa, a Vatican representative in Jerusalem, clarified that status-quo arrangement permits Christian prayer at the site on specific holidays. The Vatican is lobbying Israel for more access to the site, which fundamentalist Jewish Israelis oppose.
"The word status quo is impure," says Prof. Weiss. "It is used to crush Jews both on the Temple and here, while talking about equality and human rights which Jews are deprived of."
The protest around the David's Tomb compound was expanded last year in light of different reports that the Israeli government and the Vatican were in talks to hand control of the site over to the Church, reports which were denied by both sides.
"The priests have never held masses here," Prof. Weiss clarifies. "The law also states that masses must not take place there. Yesterday, with the whole mess, there were also non-Jewish tourists there and no one told them anything, but those who intentionally come to crush and humiliate will not be allowed to enter the site."
According to Weiss, "It's the Vatican which is playing with fire, not us."
The Custodia of Terra Santa said in response that "in recent days, radicals have been trying to sabotage the Christian ceremonies, using violent measures against the worshippers. We see these incidents as grave and call on the State of Israel and on the police to continue taking all the required measures to allow the Christian prayer at the site, as in the past hundreds of years."
The Mount Zion compound near Jerusalem's Old City includes – according to religious beliefs – the tomb of King David on the first floor and the room of Jesus' Last Supper on the second floor. David's Tomb is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Holy Sites and the Last Supper site is under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry. Today Christians are allowed to visit the room, but can only pray in it on two specific days a year.