I was sad today when I read that Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, was brought into the Jerusalem police station and interrogated for one hour for her role in the events of Rosh Chodesh Kislev. In December, Nofrat Frenkel, an Israeli medical student and member of the Women of the Wall, was detained for wearing a talit at the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza.
The ultra Orthodox control the Kotel and plaza and are making it more difficult for women and other non-Orthodox groups to participate in any kind of activities. Hoffman is told that she might be charged with a felony for violating the rules of conduct at this holy site.
Women have been gathering to pray together each Rosh Chodesh for the past 25 years with Women of the Wall. And they have made concessions to not wear the traditional black and white talitot when they pray, rather, smaller and more colorful talitot that they wear under their coats so as not to create too much of a scene. One month after the first incident, on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, 150 women came out in solidarity with Women of the Wall and to quietly pray together that morning. While the rain prevented them from reading Torah, the energy they shared together lifted their spirits.
But today, with the announcement of Anat Hoffman’s interrogation, our hearts are downtrodden. How is it, that this place that means so much to all of the Jewish people of the world has become a place for confrontation and anger.
I remember the first time I visited the Kotel when I was 16. I was in awe at its size and the energy that emanated from the stones, the people, the place. I was moved to tears when I reached for the stones for the first time and placed my lips against the wall. I prayed that day like I never prayed before because I felt I was standing in a place where generations of Jews have stood before and were proud to be Jews.
But today, I am angered by the events of the Israeli police who bring in a distinguished woman like Anat to question her about why she wore a talit at the Wall. Why have the police never brought in for questioning the many individuals who cursed and spit at the women, threw objects at the women, and even hurt some of the women physically? Why are they not being taken into custody and told that they might be charged with a felony for assault?
And while Hoffman did not let this form of interrogation intimidate her, it was as she said, the act of being fingerprinted like a criminal that hurt the most. She said, “The stains that are still on my fingers are actually a stain on the State of Israel.”
It is these stains that will not be washed away until all Jews can be reunited in Jerusalem and throughout the world, to respect and live together as Am Echad, one people.