I just got off the phone with Anat Hoffman, the director of the Israel Religious Action Center and a former Jerusalem city councilwoman. She asked me to publish the details of her interrogation yesterday at the Kishle police station, which is located near Jaffa Gate in the Old City and was once a Turkish prison. Absolutely, I answered. Things like this should never be kept in the dark, but have the brightest possible light shone on them for all to see.
Anat said: “At the beginning of the session, the interrogating police officer, Senior Staff Sergeant Major (rank in Hebrew: rav samal bakhir) Yoram Suleiman, notified me that I was being interrogated as a suspect in a felony: not complying with a legal order and disturbing the peace.
“The interrogation took place at the Kishle police station. The police got my address from the Registry of Non-Profit Organizations.
“I was asked the following questions:
- Do you know what the Supreme Court decision was?
- What did the police officer demand from Women of the Wall during their prayer services on Rosh Hodesh Kislev (November 18) and Rosh Hodesh Tevet (December 18)?
- Are you a member of the organizing body of these prayer services?
- How many women attended?
- Did men shout at you?
- What did they shout?
- Were women wearing tallitot [prayer shawls]?
- What is a tallit?
- Did the women wear kippot [skullcaps]?
- Did you hold a Torah scroll?
- Did you hold a Torah scroll with intent to read it?
- Did you hold a procession in the direction of Robinson's Arch?
- Did you say on Army Radio that the aim of your group is to hold a quiet protest against the discrimination against women at the Western Wall?
- For what reason do you think there is discrimination against women at the Western Wall?
- Do you personally wear a tallit and a kippah?
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
(Anat says that the police officer asked her this question in order to find out whether she knew at the time that she was doing something that disturbed the sensibilities of others.)
(Rahel’s note: this question is particularly disturbing. Since when do the police hold a citizen accountable for statements that she makes to the media? Last I heard, Israel was supposed to be a democracy with freedom of speech.)
(Again, I take the liberty of inserting my own note. If you want to know the answer to that question, just go here.)
“Then,” said Anat, “the police officer took me to the other room, dipped my fingertips in ink and took my fingerprints, just like they do in the movies.”
Women of the Wall has existed since December 1988. I have been a member since 1992. We have never behaved violently toward anyone. Ever. We have been cursed, struck, had chairs thrown at us. In the early days of our group, before I came to Israel, one woman was injured in the head and neck by a thrown chair—the kind made of metal and heavy plastic that used to be at the Kotel, not the lightweight plastic ones that are there now—and had to be taken to the hospital. In November 1996, two men—husbands of members of our group—intervened when a group of several men evidently bent on violence approached us. The police took the two husbands, one of them a rabbi, to the police station for interrogation and allowed the men who had threatened us to go free. Except for one incident that I can recall, as far as I know, the police have never called anyone who threatened us or attacked us to account for their behavior.
But they are treating Anat as a suspected felon—Anat!—who, to the best of my knowledge, has never raised a hand against anyone in her life.
What is going on here? Someone, somewhere, must be feeling very threatened. After all, Women of the Wall has been in existence for 21 years. Why, all of a sudden, is one of our most prominent members being treated as a criminal?
Indeed, what is going on here?
I have no words to describe how appalled, disturbed and outraged I feel over this as an Israeli citizen, an American citizen and a Jew.
No words at all.
(Full disclosure: I am a prayer leader for Women of the Wall—have been for some years now—and know Anat from the group. But even if I had never prayed once with Women of the Wall or laid eyes on Anat in my life, and even if I disagreed with the group for whatever reason, I would still be as horrified over what is happening as I am now.)