Woman arrested for Western Wall prayer

Anat Hoffman

Anat Hoffman

Progressive groups in Israel have spoken out against the arrest of a woman for attempting to read from the Torah at the Western Wall.

Police in Jerusalem brought Anat Hoffman in for questioning after she was found with the scroll at the time of morning prayers, in violation of a Supreme Court ruling requiring women to pray from the Torah at an alternative site.

It follows the arrest of another Israeli woman in 2009 for wearing a tallit and a kippah while carrying a Torah scroll at the Western Wall. Both acts have drawn fire from Israel’s strictly Orthodox groups.

Ms Hoffman has been allowed home but forbidden from visiting the site for 30 days.

She is leader of the progressive group Women of the Wall and director of the Religious Action Centre – the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

She had been joined by dozens of other women from the group at a regular service marking the first day of the month of Av.

A member of the group denounced Ms Hoffman’s arrest and said: "This is another example of the strictly Orthodox establishment imposing its stances on the public.”

A spokesman for the Masorti movement called the arrest “foolish”.

He said: “The Western Wall plaza belongs to the entire nation and the Haredim have expropriated it."

Ms Hoffman previously told the JC that everybody should have equal access to the Western Wall.

She said: “It is a national monument and should be open to all including the Pope with his cross, Arabs without head covering, anyone as long as they don’t have a bomb — even a woman with a tallit and a sefer Torah.”

However, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich said that he regretted that “interest groups have chosen to turn the Western Wall plaza into a disputed area.”

He said: "The Western Wall is a place of unity for the people of Israel, not a place of polarisation and differences."

Last updated: 3:15pm, July 12 2010