Unfortunately, and this is perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of a very sad story, I didn’t suspect even for a moment that the story was exaggerated. I read it and realized that it was absolutely true. And now the story has been told and retold and no exaggeration is needed to make the point. It is that horrible.
Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, an organization dedicated to bringing equality to the experience of praying at the Western Wall as arrested for saying the Shema at the Wall in a tallit with a group of women. She was, dragged away, strip searched, and thrown into a jail cell.
What can be said? What can possibly be said to make sense out of this horrendous, tragic episode? Nothing. It is further evidence of how far religious authorities in Israel are willing to go to ostracize, humiliate, and condemn anything other than one particular brand of Orthodox Judaism in the Jewish State. And, that is a tragedy, a travesty and a sin.
How do they expect Jews outside of Israel to overlook this? How do they expect us to continue to care about Israel if people who serve as role models for our children are beaten and humiliated for saying the Shema in what is supposed to be our holiest place? The excuse that women’s prayer is a provocation to others and therefore must be stopped is ludicrous. There are times where people must be told that their reaction is the problem. Anat Hoffman’s action is far from being an act of provocation. It is an act of commitment, of faith, of principle.
I only hope that some of the women who were there with her when this occurred, who are members of Hadassah, the organization which has done so much to build up Israel and support for her and commitment to her will ask themselves: What has Israel become? and will not let the matter rest.
None of us should.
In 1982, I traveled to the former Soviet Union and met Jews who were denied the right to worship, to identify as Jews. Many of the Jews I met eventually came to Israel where they knew they could express themselves as Jews in the way they saw fit.
What has happened to that dream?