My Arrest Last Week

Last Tuesday I was arrested when I took a group of over two hundred women to the Western Wall to pray together in the women’s section. I was arrested for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good by wearing my tallit and saying the Shema out loud.

It was a traumatic experience. I was pulled along the ground by my wrists, strip-searched, shackled by the hands and feet and left to sleep on the floor of a jail cell with nothing to keep me warm but my tallit.

The treatment I received was designed to make women scared of entering the Western Wall complex with a tallit. Women wearing prayer shawls are common all over the world. Only in Israel does this simple act meet with such intense pressure. You have to remember that when I enter a room of Israelis with my tallit, most of them have never seen a woman wear one before.

So why do I do it? The reason is simple: if women do not stand up for their rights the religious authorities in Israel will continue to push women further and further out of sight. Hopefully the more regular Israelis see me and other women wearing tallitot, the better they will come to understand that it is not religious subversion on our part.

I respect Jews who pray differently than me, and I understand that many women do not wish to wear a tallit. But there are millions of Jewish women who do wish to pray at the Western Wall with a tallit. Enabling them to do so in peace and safety was never meant to infringe on the rights of others. It simply means that there is more than one way to be a Jew.

In the past week, I have received more love and support than I knew was possible.  Many of you have written me to express your care and concern and this has meant so much to me in these difficult days. I also thank the organizations who issued statements to condemn my arrest.  It is clear that this issue resonates with Jews from all denominations. Unfortunately, the Israeli government and the Orthodox rabbis that they have charged with administering the Wall still fail to understand that the Western Wall is holy for all Jews.  Together we can stand up against this insanity and show that the Kotel belongs to us all.

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.

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Anat Hoffman

About Anat Hoffman

Anat Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

4 Responses to “My Arrest Last Week”

  1. I think that the action of the Israel police that would arrest a women praying at the western wall is barbaric. I am ashamed that the world should see that there is that much discrimination in Israel. I also think that they should be forced to accept marriages and conversion by conservative and reform rabbis. They are making Israel a dictatorship and will soon be a third world country because all other countries will shun them and soon all tourism will stop. They are their own worst enemies.

  2. You would have made a big news had you been a Muslim woman not allowed to lead prayer.

    Anyhow, the so-called ‘Wailing Wall’ has nothing to do with Hebrew religion. It’s foundation of a Roman fortress built by King Herold.

    British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon discovered in 1962 that the entire City of David in the past had been only that little rock ridge on the western bank of the Kidron Valley. In early 1970s, Professor Benjamin Mazar, former President of Hebrew University too, confirmed that Haram al-Sharif was indeed a Roman fortress.


  1. Celebrating 25 Years of Women of the Wall | Women of Reform Judaism - November 4, 2013

    […] On October 16, 2012, Anat Hoffman, WOW’s coordinator and director of the Reform Movement’s Israe… for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good for wearing her tallit and saying the Shema out loud. Since that time, there have been important steps towards achieving the goals of WOW, including a decision from the Jerusalem District Court holding that detention of WOW members for their activities at the Kotel was unjustified. The Court also held that requests for restraining orders against WOW were no longer allowed. Leaders of the Reform Movement have been in conversation with Israel government leaders to resolve this situation and create a space at the Kotel that will be available for pluralistic communal prayer. […]

  2. Female Jewish leader checked naked in Israeli jail | Rehmat's World - October 24, 2012

    […] to Anat Hoffman’ own story, she was arrested for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good by wearing a tallith […]

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