Female Jewish leader checked naked in Israeli jail

Israeli women rights activist, Anat Hoffman was arrested by Israeli police for reciting her prayers loudly while leading a group of 200 Jewish women at the Jewish Holy Wailing Wall last week. She belongs to the Reform Judaism and is leader of Israeli organization named ‘Women of the Wall’. Anat Hoffman is also executive director of of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.

Police claims that she was disturbing peace. She was taken to a jail where she was pulled along the ground by her wrists, strip-searched, shackled by the hands and feet and left to sleep on the floor of the jail cell with nothing to keep her warm but her tallith (prayer shawl).

According to Anat Hoffman’ own story, she was arrested for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good by wearing a tallith and saying the Shema out loud. Like Muslim female Hijab, Jewish women are commanded by Torah to wear shawl at religious events. 

The treatment I received was designed to make women scared of entering the Western Wall complex with a tallith. 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,” says Anat Hoffman.

After spending a night in Israeli jail, Anat was taken to court, police put shackles on her legs. A judge released her on the condition that she agree not to go to the Wailing Wall for any reason for 30 days or be fined 5,000 shekels.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism have sent a letter of condemnation to Israeli ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren.

Jewish daily Forward (October 17, 2012) described her experience: “They checked me naked, completely, without my underwear. They dragged me on the floor 15 meters; my arms are bruised. They put me in a cell without a bed, with three other prisoners, including a prostitute and a car thief. They threw the food through a little window in the door. I laid on the floor covered with my tallit“.

In August 2012 – Israeli daily Ha’aretz had reported that four women were arrested for praying in the women’s section of the Wailing Wall. After keeping them under lock for half-a-day, the Jewish security police released them on the condition that they would not enter the area for praying for the next 50 days. If any of those women decided to go back on their promise, she could face upto 18 months in jail under Israeli law for “being danger to public peace”.

Israel’s Supreme Court has called wearing shawl or reciting Torah aloud by women in the vicinty of Holy Wailing Wall – a crime. 

Many scholars wonder when Jews will accept the truth that the so-called “Wailing Wall” has nothing to do with the Temple of King Solomon. It’s in fact a portion of an old Roman fortress’ foundation.

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