Woman activist Anat Hoffman managed to make the news again Monday, returning to the Western Wall (Kotel) and holding a holy Torah scroll in violation of a High Court order defiining acceptable behavior at the religious site.
Head of the “Woman of the Wall Movement’” that campaigns for their group to conduct services on the first day of the Hebrew month in a way unacceptable to the Orthodox regular worshippers at the wall, Hoffman again was arrested. A High Court order allows the Women of the Wall to conduct their feminist prayer service at Robinson' Arch, a section of the Southern Wall that is considered to have the same holiness, out of sight of the traditional groups.
Hoffman was barred from the Western Wall for 30 days and was ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 shekels ($1,300). The women’s group behind the provocation insisted that she was only holding the Torah scroll as her group sang on the way to the Robinson’s Arch area at the Southern Wall. The women claimed they did not violate the court order prohibiting women from reading from the Torah at the Wall.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz called Hoffman’s act part of "a fanatical political struggle of an extremist group” and added that the holy site is a place of unity and should not be "a place of polarization, especially on the first day of the Nine Days before Tisha B'Av, when our Holy Temple destroyed because of internal hatred."
The Conservative “Masoriti” movement responded with its slogan that the entire site “belongs to the entire nation.” However, women pray every day immediately adjacent to the men at the Western Wall, where they can hear the services as onlhy a head-level barrier divides them, in accordance with Orthodox practice.
Hoffman was arrested last November on the first day of a Hebrew month—as on Monday—for violating court-approved rules of decorum by trying to read from the Torah.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affair s for Agudath Israel of America, wrote in Israel National News earlier this year, “People of all faiths and of all degrees of Jewish observance are welcome at the Western Wall. They are expected to respect the feelings of those who pray there constantly and behave accordingly.
"Those who are unhappy with the Israeli Supreme Court’s 2003 decision [to apportion a special area at Robinson’s Arch, for women to chant at feminist religious services decision] have the right to their unhappiness. But if they choose instead to intentionally flout the law, they should honestly acknowledge that they are courting prosecution through civil disobedience – not seek to portray themselves as innocent victims wondering what they might possibly have done wrong…..
“People of all faiths are welcome at the Kotel – as they should be. Out of respect, though, for the Jewish historical and spiritual connection to the place, public services there respect a single standard of decorum.”