Shalom Life | July 26, 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.

Ron Dermer to CNN: You Do Your Viewers A Disservice [VIDEO] Ron Dermer to CNN: You Do Your Viewers A Disservice [VIDEO] TrendingOp-Ed: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – With Friends Like This Who Needs Enemies? Op-Ed: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – With Friends Like This Who Needs Enemies? TrendingSenior Hamas Officials Are Living the Good Life Senior Hamas Officials Are Living the Good Life Trending
 

Lena Dunham and Andy Samberg Team Up For HBO Mockumentary

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Lena Dunham and Andy Samberg Team Up For HBO Mockumentary

The 'Girls' and 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' stars will appear in an upcoming sports mockumentary.

Read More

Joan Rivers Staunchly Defends Israel, Insults Selena Gomez [VIDEO]

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Joan Rivers Staunchly Defends Israel, Insults Selena Gomez [VIDEO]

The controversial comedian slammed Gomez for her #PrayForGaza tweet

Read More

The Ten Best Seinfeld Memes

July 25, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau & Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Seinfeld Memes

We look at some of the most entertaining memes inspired by the iconic TV show

Read More

Jesse Eisenberg Feels Safe In Israel, Calls It "A Wonderful Country"

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Jesse Eisenberg Feels Safe In Israel, Calls It "A Wonderful Country"

The 'Social Network' star recently visited for a Q&A at Beit Lessin Theatre

Read More

James Franco Outs His Brother Dave, Tells Internet He's Dating Zac Efron

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
James Franco Outs His Brother Dave, Tells Internet He's Dating Zac Efron

The 'Neighbors' co-stars are apparently in a serious relationship, according to a very unreliable gossip site

Read More

Guess what Canada? Daniel Radcliffe is Stuck Here Due To Visa Issues

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Guess what Canada? Daniel Radcliffe is Stuck Here Due To Visa Issues

Torontonians should be on the look out for the former 'Harry Potter' star

Read More

Shia LaBeouf Arrives in Court For 'Cabaret' Incident

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Shia LaBeouf Arrives in Court For 'Cabaret' Incident

The former 'Transformers' actor appeared unshaven in a suit to face charges for criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment

Read More

Cupcake Truck Calls Israelis "Zionist Pigs"

July 25, 2014 | By Hugh Holt
Cupcake Truck Calls Israelis "Zionist Pigs"

New York-based Cupcake Crew, a finalist on Cupcake Wars, tweet some rather offensive comments

Read More

More Headlines