Last night, police intervened as women, including Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and chairwoman of Women of the Wall, prayed at the Western Wall in celebration of the beginning of the Jewish month of Cheshvan and the 100th anniversary of Hadassah. Hoffman was arrested and charged with the "offense" of wearing a prayer shawl and disturbing public order. She vividly described excessive use of force and mistreatment by the police. Two other women were detained this morning. Leaders of the Reform Jewish Movement have spoken to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to express great concern, and released the following statement:
"Last night's police intervention as women prayed at the Kotel as well as the arrest of Anat Hoffman are appalling. Anat Hoffman is not only a courageous champion of social justice, but a close friend and colleague. The treatment she has described while being held in jail is deplorable and degrading and must be investigated immediately by the Minister of Police. These events are unacceptable and an affront to Jews worldwide who treasure Israel as a vibrant democracy committed to the right of gender equality and religious freedom" said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. "Israeli governmental leaders and law enforcement must ensure that the right of women to pray at the Wall is protected and arrests such as those that occurred last night are prevented from ever happening again."
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, added, "There is no denominational monopoly on the spirituality of the Kotel, and it is intolerable that any woman should be arrested for praying at one of Judaism's most cherished sites. The role of Israeli police should rather be to protect those who pray."
Barbara Kavadias, Acting Executive Director of ARZA noted, "Anat Hoffman has been arrested for doing what Jewish women all over the world do on a regular basis: pray as Jews. Israel's Declaration of Independence guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture and commits to safeguarding the holy places of all religions. It is unconscionable that the State of Israel is now denying us the religious freedom to pray."
"The Reform Movement calls on the government of Israel to remove the ultra-Orthodox authority that oversees the Kotel and ensure the rights of all Jewish people to pray at this holy site, men and women alike," Kavadias continued. "The words of Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem, express the will 'To be a free people in our land.' That freedom will only be a reality when all Jews, women and men, are able to pray openly without being harassed or physically attacked."
UPDATE: Add your name to a petition urging the Israeli government to ensure that oversight of the Kotel includes a range of Jewish views and voices and protects gender equality.