Last night, a violent arrest was made at the Western Wall. The crime? Reciting the Shema aloud in a prayer shawl. Anat Hoffman, who is the leader of Women of the Wall, a group that has been organizing monthly prayer services at the Kotel for the past 24 years, was thrown in jail by Jerusalem police acting on behalf of religious authorities who monitor the holy site.
Although Hoffman has been arrested several times by Israeli police for similar infringements, this arrest was particularly brutal. In an interview yesterday with the Forward, she described her treatment:
“This time they checked me naked, completely, without my underwear. They dragged me on the floor 15 meters; my arms are bruised. They put me in a cell without a bed, with three other prisoners, including a prostitute and a car thief. They threw the food through a little window in the door. I laid on the floor covered with my tallit.”
Hoffman was leading prayer for a group of approximately 200 women, some of whom were participants at the annual Hadassah conference, when she was interrupted by police. Hoffman was arrested and later transferred to different police stations throughout the night. She was subsequently taken to court in legs shackles, where she was forced to agree to not visit the Western Wall for 30 days.
“We need to liberate the wall again. We have to demand it.”
Hoffman claims she was arrested in order to harass and intimidate her organization from continuing to perform services at the Kotel. While the group’s stated mission is to “strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud,” it seems the Haredi rabbis who control Kotel protocol consider Hoffman’s actions on par with prostitutes and car thieves. Following her arrest, Hoffman sounded determined to continue the fight.
“These topics are the final frontier, the essence of pluralism and equality.”
Today, Reform Jewish leaders called for an investigation into Hoffman’s arrest and treatment by police.