Shalom Life | August 23, 2014

Woman Holding Torah Arrested at Kotel

Leaders of prayer group violates High Court ruling.

By: Sammy Hudes

Published: July 12th, 2010 in News » Israel

Woman Holding Torah Arrested at Kotel

Anat Hoffman, leader of the female prayer group Women of the Wall (WOW), was arrested for holding a Torah Scroll at the Western Wall on Monday. The group had gathered at the Kotel to mark the beginning of the month of Av, also known as “Rosh Chodesh Av.” Hoffman was caught holding the Torah at Robinson’s Arch, where the group has been ordered to stay when conducting their services. WOW has been celebrating each new month at the Western Wall for the last 20 years.

Witnesses say that the Torah scroll had been removed from a bag earlier than permitted, and the women began dancing with it. Another witness accused Hoffman of hiding the scroll under her clothing, so it would not be seen. Hoffman’s fellow group members ridiculed this possibility, claiming that “a book as big as an eight-year-old child” cannot be hidden under one’s clothing. Following the arrest, WOW members protested outside the police station, where Hoffman was taken. She was later released back to her home, but is banned from visiting the Kotel for 30 days.

This is not the first time WOW members have faced controversy. In November 2009, a woman associated with the group was arrested at the Wall for wearing a tallit. According to the Supreme Court of Israel, women are prohibited from wearing shawls at the wall (including tefillin), and from reading the Torah there. The Wall is currently under the control of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Rabbi Erin Polonsky of Temple Sinai in Toronto spoke to Shalom Life about the incident. “Why should the Orthodox have the monopoly on how to define religious practice? If they don't like [other’s practices] they can turn away. It's all of our spot. It doesn't belong to the Orthodox. It belongs to Jews. It should be an apolitical place. It should be a place where Jews can come and worship. If you look back, you can find pictures of the Western Wall where women and men are praying side by side. There didn't used to be a mechitza (“divider”) and there didn't used to be an Orthodox shul… If I was at an Orthodox shul and I crossed the mechitza, they'd ask me to leave but I'm not going to end up in jail.”

The Masorti Movement’s response to the arrest echoed Rabbi Polonsky’s thoughts, as reported by Ynet. “The arrest of the Women of the Wall chairwoman is a foolish act. We never called and will never call for violation of the law, but such selective enforcement against a non-violent act is puzzling. The Western Wall plaza belongs to all of the people of Israel and the Haredim have confiscated the Wall from the people."

Hoffman is a very prominent activist for the Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel. This organization called the arrest “a harsh reminder of the price the Israeli society may pay for its religious intolerance and fanaticism.” It also vowed to “use legal and public means to build a third plaza at the Western Wall which will be open to the entire public without sex segregation.”

“To make it against the law of the country to be able to express your Jewish voice in your own way is oppressive,” said Polonsky.

Anat Hoffman will be speaking at 10 a.m. at Temple Sinai this Saturday, as part of the Shabbat services.

In Toronto, Thousands Arrive to Rally Against anti-Semitism In Toronto, Thousands Arrive to Rally Against anti-Semitism TrendingJewish Student Physically and Verbally Assaulted by Palestinian Students Jewish Student Physically and Verbally Assaulted by Palestinian Students TrendingA Lost Tribe of Israel Makes Aliyah [VIDEO] A Lost Tribe of Israel Makes Aliyah [VIDEO] Trending
 

The Ten Best Jewish Ice Bucket Challenges

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Jewish Ice Bucket Challenges

From Drake to Adam Sandler, here are some of the best challenges we've seen that benefit the ALS Foundation

Read More

REVIEW: The LOT’s ‘Little Mermaid Jr’ Is Colourful, Catchy and Captivating

August 22, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
REVIEW: The LOT’s ‘Little Mermaid Jr’ Is Colourful, Catchy and Captivating

The Lower Ossington Theatre's adaptation of Disney's popular 1989 film is a must-see family adventure.

Read More

7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel

The copper owl buried with a woman is the oldest piece of copper ever discovered in the Middle East

Read More

Ontario Students Pass BDS Resolultion

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Ontario Students Pass BDS Resolultion

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students unanimously voted to boycott Israel

Read More

Israelis Turn Bomb Shelter Into Underground Casino

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Israelis Turn Bomb Shelter Into Underground Casino

Police find casino intact with cannabis plantation and tons of alcohol in Kiryat Gat bomb shelter

Read More

4-Year-Old Israeli Boy Dies in Mortar Attack from Gaza

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
4-Year-Old Israeli Boy Dies in Mortar Attack from Gaza

First Israeli child fatality brings death toll to 68, the first since Hamas violated ceasefire on Tuesday

Read More

Op-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism

August 22, 2014 | By Elliot Hamilton
Op-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism

SJP is far from the "social justice" movement it claims to be, as it partakes in some of the worst instances of anti-Semitism on college campuses

Read More

Ashdod Synagogue Hit By Rocket Fire

August 22, 2014 | By Ilanan Curiel
Ashdod Synagogue Hit By Rocket Fire

At least 50 rockets, mortars fired on southern Israel, with one landing near preschool and another striking an Ashdod synagogue, following violent day which saw over 100 rockets launched; IDF hit over 30 Gaza targets in response, two killed

Read More

More Headlines