Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall Arrested

Anat Hoffman, who is often the most public face of Women of the Wall (Nashot HaKotel), was arrested this morning during WoW’s Rosh Hodesh Av service. It’s not yet clear what the charges are.

WoW RH Av2The WoW gathering was huge this morning, and from the beginning, things were a little edgy. There was a lot of media present (which I might guess has been the case since Nofrat Frenkel was arrested, but this was my first time going since that happened, so I don’t know) and one of the police that works at the Kotel was assigned to the group–either to protect us from Haredi attacks or to keep us in line, as needed. We were positioned closer to the Wall than usual (because, naturally, there were so many people there that we had to move forward to give everyone space). Women were wearing tallitot as scarves, to which our assigned policeman did not object. He did, periodically, try to tell people not to sing too loud, and eventually another policeman came by with the same message.
WoW RH Av1
We finished Hallel and began to proceed, according to the terms of the Israeli High Court (Bag”tz) decision, to Robinson’s Arch to read Torah, with the intent to preserve the continuity of the service by escorting the Torah in song.

Now, it should be noted here that WoW has had a hard time lately getting the Sefer Torah into the Kotel area, even though Bag”tz permitted it in its ruling. I won’t reveal how they got it in this time around, but it took some maneuvering.

It is perfectly kosher, according to the Bag”tz ruling, to take the Sefer Torah out of its bag, as Anat did this morning, by the Kotel, to carry it to Robinson’s Arch. It is not permitted to read from the Torah in the women’s section, and we did not. We were singing and escorting the Torah, and things got more and more tense, with police trying to physically push Anat out of the women’s section and she (and those of us holding on to her) was trying to walk out, but at a more dignified pace. Eventually there was a skirmish involving the police trying to physically take the Torah out of her hands (we were now out of the women’s section and on our way over to Robinson’s Arch) and somewhere in all of that, they arrested her, and she was taken into custody (as was the Torah).

The rest of the group proceeded over to the police station by Jaffa Gate to stand outside and finish our service–we read the Torah portion for Rosh Chodesh (from a Chumash, as we had no Sefer Torah) and davvened Musaf. We then kept singing for some time, because, Nofrat said, Anat (who was inside the police station somewhere) would be able to hear us. (Nofrat knows from personal experience, natch.) Presumably Anat will be released sometime in the next few hours and we’ll see what happens from there.

Hodesh tov, everyone. The Temple was already destroyed once because of sinat chinam (baseless hatred). I think my mourning this Tisha B’Av might be more about things present than things past.

ETA: Hoffman was released after five hours of interrogation, is barred from the Kotel for 30 days, was fined 5000 NIS, and evidently the police are consulting about whether and for what to charge her.

40 Responses to “Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall Arrested”

  1. Great reporting Danya, fast, accurate first-hand account!
    Its a busy day for religious freedom fighters in Israel. Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush is at the Knesset where the Law Committee will be discussing MK Rotem’s altered coversion bill. For in-depth legal and political analysis, drop me an email.
    Best,
    Nikki
    nikki@hiddush.org


    Nikki · July 12th, 2010 at 3:58 am
  2. I bear witness to Danya’s account. It was as she says. During Hallel, I was overwhelmed by the angelic choir of over 200 women’s voices harmonizing in beautiful prayer. After the man admonished us to keep over voices down I raised my voice in song much louder than I ever had. Thanks to Danya for writing it down accurately so quickly.


    Anne Mintz · July 12th, 2010 at 4:01 am
  3. Anne wrote “After the man admonished us to keep over voices down I raised my voice in song much louder than I ever had.” – this is simple proof that you are doing this to antagonize not for spiritual reasons.


    Shmuel · July 12th, 2010 at 5:33 am
  4. Thanks, Danya, for posting this. So sorry to hear that the temperature has heated up again.


    Scott Slarskey · July 12th, 2010 at 7:17 am
  5. [...] Women of the Wall leader for praying with Torah scrollHa’aretzWomen of Wall leader arrestedYnetnewsAnat Hoffman of Women of the Wall ArrestedJewschool (blog)all 4 news [...]


    Women of the Wall leader arrested – Jerusalem Post | news plus · July 12th, 2010 at 9:13 am
  6. It is not permitted to read from the Torah in the women’s section, and we did not.

    Congratulations, Israel, you’re now following in Hadrian’s footsteps.

    Eventually there was a skirmish involving the police trying to physically take the Torah out of her hands

    …and the Soviet Union.


    BZ · July 12th, 2010 at 10:28 am
  7. The Jerusalem Post is reporting attendance at WoW’s Shacharit as “several dozen women,” vs. the much higher numbers we’ve been hearing from eyewitnesses. Garrr.


    Rooftopper Rav · July 12th, 2010 at 10:52 am
  8. Good report…we’re all hanging on every word. I can say that many in the US are standing beside you all. This is a shanda, but we will prevail, I am sure.
    Chazak v’amatz,
    Rom


    Rom Rosenblum · July 12th, 2010 at 12:14 pm
  9. Check out Arutz Sheva’s take on the situation. Needless to say, their take on it is a bit different from Danya’s.

    I’m thinking Danya’s is a touch more credible…

    Woman Uses Torah Scroll to Wail at the Law at Western Wall

    www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/138556


    Yaakov · July 12th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
  10. I guess it’s appropriate that it should happen on Rosh Chodesh Av, when we begin to mourn in earnest for the sorry state of affairs prevailing in Jerusalem.


    Hatam Soferet · July 12th, 2010 at 4:58 pm
  11. I fully support Women of the Wall but dislike the cheap publicity stunt pulled by Anat Hoffman.

    The carrying of the Torah openly may not be illegal but it was designed to create PR and bring in money in support of the cause.

    Had it been the open wearing of Talitot- I would be OK with it (even though this may be illegal). But I do not like the way Anat used the Sefer Torah as a prop.

    This is different from Nofrat Frankel who did not realize in advance the reaction that would follow when she carried the Torah.

    Yes to the goals of WOW. Nearly all of the WOW are serious and devoted to the cause. But No to the gimmicks.


    Yona · July 12th, 2010 at 5:13 pm
  12. BS”D
    This sort of behaviour is never appropriate. How could they bar Hoffman from the Kotel and fine her without having charged her with anything? How is that legal? I carried the WoW Torah from the Kotel to Robinson’s Arch on Rosh Chodesh Av in ’06, remember Danya? Nobody arrested me then, so what gives?


    Soferet Avielah Barclay · July 12th, 2010 at 5:23 pm
  13. If those women spent their time having lots of children and raising them Reform/Conservative instead of doing this, they would have a better chance of changing things in the future than anything they’re doing now.


    Dave Boxthorn · July 12th, 2010 at 9:29 pm
  14. Video of the Torah being led from the Kotel, group singing and the arrest is here: youtu.be/cJUbW65itno .


    Brian Rosman · July 12th, 2010 at 10:01 pm
  15. Dave, your penchant for the absurdly inflammatory never ceases to amaze. Well done.


    David A.M. Wilensky · July 13th, 2010 at 12:37 am
  16. Shmuel suggests that my raising my voice in prayer as a response to being told to keep my voice down is proof of an antagonistic gesture on my part. Shmuel – you dont’ know me. It proves nothing. I am not politically involved in this “fight”. I raised my voice in prayer because no one – repeat, no one – gets to tell me he is offended by the sound of my female voice in public. I was well onto the women’s section of the plaza and can pray as loudly and joyously as I wish. If that police officer was so offended at the sounds of my prayers, all he had to do is return to the men’s section which is plenty big enough to find a space where he couldn’t hear me. He’s the one making it political when he tries to silence my voice from the women’s side of the plaza. It was Hallel, for goodness sake. It’s supposed to be joyous.


    Anne Mintz · July 13th, 2010 at 2:09 am
  17. @Yona – if you think trying to carry the Torah to the place where the las allows is a cheap publicity stunt then you don’t actually support or understand WoW. It’s not about money it’s about changing social norms and promoting Jews of all kinds the freedom to worship in the ways that they find meaningful in the places that are meaningful to them.
    I suppose you think that Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat was a gimmick too?

    HaKotel Lekulanu buddy.


    uzi · July 13th, 2010 at 4:08 am
  18. I just want to make sure nobody conflates my opinion with that of the other Yona…

    From the the first daf of Perek R Eliezer Demila from Masechet Shabbat…

    שפעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה גזרה על ישראל, שכל המניח תפילין על ראשו – יקרו את מוחו. והיה אלישע מניח תפילין ויצא לשוק.

    וראהו קסדור אחד, רץ מלפניו ורץ אחריו. כיון שהגיע אצלו – נטלן מראשו ואחזן בידו. אמר ליה: מה בידך? – אמר לו: כנפי יונה. פשט את ידו ונמצאו בה כנפי יונה. לפיכך היו קוראין אותו בעל כנפים. מאי שנא כנפי יונה דאמר ליה, ולא אמר ליה שאר עופות? – משום דדמיא כנסת ישראל ליונה, שנאמר כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף ואברותיה בירקרק חרוץ, מה יונה זו כנפיה מגינות עליה, אף ישראל – מצות מגינות עליהן.

    Another crazy publicity stunt from someone which had nothing to do with respect for the Torah!

    Oh wait.

    Yeah, no, we value such “publicity stunts,” which I would call religious openness.

    Kol hakavod to the Nashot haKotel.


    Yonah · July 13th, 2010 at 5:07 am
  19. Oh great, thanks Jerusalem. I’ve been avoiding the Old City on this trip because it always makes me feel sick, and now I feel sick avoiding the Old City. Sigh.


    sarah · July 13th, 2010 at 5:10 am
  20. @uzi: Not only do I understand Women of the Wall, I was there as I have been many times.I am one of them (us).

    Several of my friends feel they they come do daven. Yesterday this stunt was planned and we did not all know about it in advance. I can tell you that several of us who have been there monthly are not sure about returning.This is not the operation of Anat Hoffman. It is supposed to be a group with non-hierarchical decision making.

    I do not think that Rosa Parks was a gimmick. I think the fact that Anat Hoffman did it, rather than someone else, was a search for PR and to bring money into the cause. If you read my post you would have seen that I did NOT say this about Nofrat Frankel who acted spontaneously.
    I also agree “HaKotel LeKulanu.” But I do not like a Sefer Torah being used as a prop.


    Yona · July 13th, 2010 at 5:24 am
  21. @Yona – I guess I am not uncomfortable with it but I understand your position. Can you tell me more about the money piece? How will more money advance the cause of Wow?


    uzi · July 13th, 2010 at 6:52 am
  22. Yona writes:
    Yesterday this stunt was planned and we did not all know about it in advance.

    What was the “stunt”? If they had to read Torah in another location, how was the Torah going to get there if no one carried it there?


    BZ · July 13th, 2010 at 10:24 am
  23. sarah writes:
    I’ve been avoiding the Old City on this trip because it always makes me feel sick, and now I feel sick avoiding the Old City.

    There’s more to the Old City than the Kotel. The chumus at Abu Shukri and Lina never disappoints.


    BZ · July 13th, 2010 at 10:25 am
  24. I do not think that Rosa Parks was a gimmick.

    But why not?


    ML · July 13th, 2010 at 10:28 am
  25. is anyone else slightly outraged that one woman detained for a few hours gets this much support while thousands of ‘nameless’ palestinians are illegally detained in israeli jails for years?


    Justin · July 13th, 2010 at 10:36 am
  26. detained in israeli jails for years without much mention of their plight…


    Justin · July 13th, 2010 at 10:39 am
  27. @uzi
    Actually, it’s been acknowledged that Rosa Parks was an active member of the NAACP and what she did WAS indeed a ‘gimmick’ and that it had been planned for someone to do that very thing when an opportune time presented itself.

    “The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been looking for a test case to challenge the legality of segregated bus seating and to woo public opinion with a series of protests.” -http://www.africanaonline.com/rosa_parks.htm

    I just happened to find this on this website just now, but I first learned about it from a civil rights video I watched in my US legal history class a few years ago, which unfortunately I don’t remember the name of, but I’m sure you can find more sources for it if you’re interested.


    A.M. · July 13th, 2010 at 10:55 am
  28. Justin, great point. But I don’t know that this is the right place for it. If you look around this blog, you’ll find plenty of posts about oppression of Palestinians.


    David A.M. Wilensky · July 13th, 2010 at 11:38 am
  29. While I don’t agree with @Dave Boxthorn that “these women” are necessarily the ones who should be having the children, he’s got a point about liberals in general and liberal Jews in particular. The demographics are against us, and we should address that fact, too.

    However, I think it is vital that we look at liberal/progressive rhetoric and ask what can be done to raise it up. Part of what the “other side” does is to appeal to certain emotions that we tend to ignore, or worse, dismiss as “irrelevant.”

    Finally, I think that the Ba’al Shem Tov’s dictum of “Ahavat Yisrael” must be adhered to here: the cops who arrested Anat were just doing their job, and the people who sent them, even Rav Rabinovitch, think they are doing what is best for Torah.

    So let us pray that they be blessed with MORE time to study Torah, just (in the words of Tevye the milkman) FAR AWAY FROM US!


    Simcha Daniel Burstyn · July 13th, 2010 at 11:47 am
  30. I’m with Justin on this one. Not just because it seems unbalanced to spend all this time on one woman while the Palestinians languish and so forth, but because the way that people talk about Women of the Wall seems to miss the fact that it’s all taking place within a fundamentally discriminatory society. This particular injustice is simply one symptom of a massive structure of injustice and discrimination.

    And also: does anyone else have an issue with the kind of fetishization of the Kotel that seems to be going on here? I mean, I obviously think that anyone should be able to pray more or less wherever the hell they want, but this fixation on the Wall seems to be sort of…idolatrous.


    miri · July 14th, 2010 at 3:26 am
  31. @Uzi: Anat Haoffman directs the Israel Religious Action Center. When she was arrested last time it was milked for everything possible – interviews, fundraiser for IRAC, PR,etc.
    A lot of money was raised. I know this from the inside.

    Now, if such events unfold naturally – OK. This is what happened with Nofrat who was NOT looking to be the center of attention. I can admire those who take advantage of such a crisis. The problem is when it is created more for the political agenda than for the religious agenda (which can not always be separated).

    But Anat planned to do this in advance. people were hired to see that it was all taped. She had lawyers present.
    In the end the women who came to daven did not complete their daven in a respectable way.
    Most of the women who are regulars are serious about their davening. Anat is serious about the cause. I am serious when the two are intertwined.

    Within minutes there was a story in all of the papers and an “exclusive” first interview in the Forward.The press statements had been readied in advance.

    And it is time to stop the BS about this group being “Orthodox.” I doubt that more than a handful would so self- identify. It is a group of committed women from the full spectrum.
    Since Nofrat’s arrest the largest numbers have been Conservative.

    I would also add that the davening has become a mish-mash. Yes Kaddish Yatom. No to Hatzi Kaddish.
    Yes to Torah blessings but no to the shacharit Barchu.
    It is no longer the Avi Weiss guidelines.
    I can also say with confidence that most of the women, who indeed do respect themselves, feel like they are making a sad compromise by not having a repetition of the Amida.

    @miri: Many of the Jewish people have this fixation. Sad to report that the Kotel rabbi no longer allows a ceremony to present Israeli ID cards to new immigrants. Nor will he allow the women in the army choir to sing on special occasions (the men sng and the women mouth the words). So holy or not – it is a symbol to many.


    yona · July 14th, 2010 at 7:20 am
  32. yona writes:
    Now, if such events unfold naturally – OK. This is what happened with Nofrat who was NOT looking to be the center of attention. I can admire those who take advantage of such a crisis. The problem is when it is created more for the political agenda than for the religious agenda (which can not always be separated).

    You say this as if it’s a bad thing, or as if it’s somehow dishonest. OF COURSE Women of the Wall has a political agenda. Their mission statement says “we aim to change the status quo that prevents women from being able to pray freely at the Western Wall”. If their objective were simply to daven, then they would choose just about any location other than the Kotel.

    And it is time to stop the BS about this group being “Orthodox.”

    Do they (still) claim to be “Orthodox”? I don’t see that self-description anywhere on their website.

    I would also add that the davening has become a mish-mash. Yes Kaddish Yatom. No to Hatzi Kaddish.
    Yes to Torah blessings but no to the shacharit Barchu.

    I agree that this is strange. If this is intended as an internal compromise to accommodate the range of practices within the group, then fine, but if they think that being “not a minyan” and therefore “Orthodox” will make them any more legitimate in the eyes of the power structure, they should realize by now that this won’t work. Or maybe they have realized this, and they’re gradually phasing out the “not a minyan” practices, leading to the current mishmash as an unstable intermediate?


    BZ · July 14th, 2010 at 9:17 am
  33. @A.M – Fascinating. I never knew that. In that case, I’ll say it this way. I am totally fine with these kind of gimmicks if they raise awareness about whatever issue it happens to be – even if the gimmick is using the Torah.

    @Yona – and why shouldn’t her arrests be used for this purpose? If I was concerned with religious pluralism in Israel I certainly would “milk them” as you say for all their worth. I agree that there is a conflict when it becomes more about the cause than the davening but if your issue is religious pluralism in Israel it seems to be a wise choice to be prepared with lawyers and video documentation and such to continue your fight.

    So long as WoW keep playing their part as “instigators” and the charedim play their part as “intolerant xenophobes” and the police just “carry out their orders” the dance will go on and the status quo is maintained. I applaud Anat for trying to push the boundaries even though it conflicts with my understanding of the purpose of groups like WoW.

    Thinking more globally – this is the real issue that will separate non-orthodox Diaspora Jewry from a strong relationship to Israel. It’s not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s the fight about religious pluralism in the State of Israel. This is where our focus should be in Israel education in America.


    uzi · July 14th, 2010 at 9:19 am
  34. @uzi: All other issues aside, even if one assumes the “provocation” is a means that serves an end (and I have no real problem with this approach) – how is it that I seem to be the only one sensitive about the use/abuse of the Sefer Torah.

    In past months it has been carried the same way in a duffel bag. I am not saying that this is right or respectful.
    But does any cause that may advance justice allow for the use of a Sefer Torah?


    yona · July 14th, 2010 at 11:48 am
  35. In past months it has been carried the same way in a duffel bag. I am not saying that this is right or respectful.
    But does any cause that may advance justice allow for the use of a Sefer Torah?

    Why should Jews in a Jewish state have to hide their Sefer Torah for fear of being accosted either by vigilantes or by the police? And what good is having a Jewish state if this is what we have to do?


    BZ · July 14th, 2010 at 12:14 pm
  36. Yona,
    I understand your discomfort at using the Torah as a weapon as it were. What else would you suggest for women who want to pray at the kotel with a Sefer Torah and advance the cause of religious freedom? BZ is right. What good is a Jewish state if Jews have to hide their love of Torah for fear of being arrested?


    uzi · July 14th, 2010 at 4:05 pm
  37. @Uzi: I am with the women nearly every month. What would I suggest? I would advocate that we all wear our Tallitot as a Tallit and not rolled around our necks like a scarf.This will bring a police reaction. I would advocate a real davening and not some quasi mish-mash once based upon what Rabbi Avi Weiss said many years ago.
    But maybe then Anat would not glory in being right in the center.

    Those of you who see the issue and the the individuals involved are not aware of just how much Anat has hijacked the group for her own ends, This to the point that until Nofrat’s arrest there was barely a Minyan on Rosh Hodesh unless groups from abroad were to show up.

    Using the Tallit would force the same police reaction (maybe less sexy for TV) but would avoid using the Sefer Torah.
    BZ is correct that we should not have to hide the Sefer Torah. But WOW went to court and lost.
    This means that they must either respect the court decision or civil disobedience.
    I am OK with either. Just do it without a Sefer Torah (or for the planned scuffle) use a Pasul Sefer.


    Yana · July 16th, 2010 at 7:14 am
  38. I hear what everyone is saying I simply disagree. As far as the internal politics of WoW, that is fascinating and I never knew that before. It certainly adds another element to my thinking and layer of understanding on this issue. Great convo!


    uzi · July 16th, 2010 at 9:58 am
  39. [...] the moving piece below by Rabbi Mark Greenspan of the Oceanside Jewish Center; and read this article, by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, at [...]


    7/15/10 Israel Special Report and Request | The METNY District of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism · July 16th, 2010 at 12:33 pm
  40. That’s not good that they think a woman should be arrested if she cannot carry Torah the way she wants. That’s her right. I think what she did was quite okay. Why do they worry about it in Israel so much? She might violated the way Orthodox worship, but they just have a talk with her and no arrest her.
    This is despicable. She is not orthodox, right? Well, I am used to reformist movement her in US and I understand that Orthodox rabbis want everyone to be like them. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s 21st century and you have to take out this bullshit about women from Torah! You don’t like women and homosexuals. This is not cool now in this century.


    Danielle · September 16th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Leave a Reply

If your comment does not immediately appear, do not freak out and repost your message a dozen times. Please note that all new visitors must have their first comment approved by the editor, and you must provide a legitimate e-mail address and use the same username for the system to "remember" you. The editor maintains the right to refuse comments deemed inappropriate or unhelpful. Users who repeatedly delve into ad hominem attacks or other troll-like behavior will be banned.

Trackback (Right-click & 'Copy Link...') | Comments RSS

"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik