Anat Hoffman, leader of Women of the Wall, was arrested last night while praying and singing the Shema with a Hadassah group at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Hoffman was detained and held overnight in police custody on charges of disturbing the peace, her sixth arrest since she helped establish the group some two decades ago.
“In the past when I was detained I had to have a policewoman come with me to the bathroom, but this was something different,” Hoffman told The Forward. “This time 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. I’m a tough cookie, but I was just so miserable. And for what? I was with the Hadassah women saying Sh’ma Israel.”
After her release today, Hoffman, also executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform movement in Israel, was issued a restraining order from the Western Wall for 30 days.
“The leadership of Women of the Wall remain committed to their struggle to gain the right of all women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her own custom, with Torah, Tallit and voices raised in song,” the organization said in a statement. “Violence, intimidation and threat will not deter the group of women from joining together and praying together to celebrate every new Jewish month at the Western Wall.”
The group assembled this morning again to celebrate the start of the month of Cheshvan on the Jewish calendar. According to a spokeswoman, police arrested Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, in the middle of prayer. The two women were detained and questioned for several hours and though they were asked to admit to disturbing the public order, they refused.