Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall chair and executive director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, says “the bravest feminists in Israel today are Orthodox women who are willing to fight.”
Ms Hoffman praised the Orthodox women “who call us to confront the rabbis who seem to be above the law” and to challenge the “hegemony of strictly Orthodox interpretation of women.”
According to the Jerusalem-born activist, the current focus of the IRAC is to “push the state” so that Israel does not discriminate against Israeli Orthodox and non-Orthodox women; this includes re-examining rules on marriage, divorce, women in media and women in public spaces.
“Israel is a Jewish state but not an Orthodox state,” she said.
Ms Hoffman, who has been arrested twice for praying unlawfully at the Western Wall, joined 300 women – including three Members of Knesset – to pray at the Wall last Tuesday.
Women of the Wall have met at the beginning of every month since 1988 in an effort to eradicate the ban on women wearing tallitot and reading from the Torah at the Wall, a ruling upheld by the Israeli High Court of Justice in 2003.
Ms Hoffman said: “There was a river of men each carrying their tallit, but we were getting our tallitot confiscated — a classic case of discrimination.” Despite her frustration with the Israeli authorities on the day, Ms Hoffman was pleased with the growing support.
“As a group and a cause, I think we have never been stronger.”
Protests took place throughout America this week in support of Women of the Wall, including 125 women who stood outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC.
“The Jewish world is saying we care about Israel, there is more than one way to be Jewish and at the holiest site for the Jewish people, let us practise, each in our own way,” Ms Hoffman said.
Anat Hoffman is due to speak in London about the progress of Women of the Wall campaign at two New Israel Fund events this weekend.