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Letter To Ambassador Taub

Following the reports of the shocking treatment of Anat Hoffman in October 2012, I wrote the letter below to Ambassador Taub on 18 October to express my deep concern and to seek a meeting with him and members of the community who wished to discuss the situation with him.

Sadly, to date, Ambassador Taub has failed to respond to me - a very disappointing situation which seems to mirror the attitude towards Anat Hoffman.

Below, is the letter as delivered to Ambassador Taub on 18 October 2012 :

Dear Ambassador Taub,

Today I am truly shocked. Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Centre of the Progressive Movement in Israel and founder of Women of the Wall, was not only arrested and treated like a common thief or prostitute for saying the Shema at the Western Wall to mark Rosh Hodesh, but she was stripped completely naked and searched and treated in an unbelievably humiliating way. She speaks about her experience of being shackled, dragged across the floor 15 meters, being thrown into a cell without a bed where even a tough, resilient person like herself was reduced to cowering on the floor wrapped in her tallit.

I write on behalf of my synagogue, on behalf of progressive Jews, on behalf of women who devote their lives, energy, skills and talents to serving the Jewish people, and on behalf of all fair-minded people who love and support the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jews and who believe it should, or could be, a beacon of democracy and Jewish values for the Middle East and the world. The State of Israel that arrested Anat Hoffman is not an Israel I recognize or wish to continue supporting. What she has described seems more reminiscent of the theocratic regime that rules in Iran and other middle eastern countries where women are abused and treated violently for carrying out their lives independently, and for believing and acting as citizens equal to men, or even for interpreting their religion and tradition differently from those that rule.

I say, on behalf of all right-thinking people who love Israel and want to see our greatest Jewish values reflected in its governance, that this monopolization of the Western Wall by Charedi Jews with the most extreme interpretations of Jewish law and custom, must stop. Women cannot continue to be brutalized by an Israeli police force that aids and abets the Charedi. They cannot, and should not be barred and arrested for praying in a group, reading from Torah or wearing a tallit. These women are women devoted to Judaism and the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and it is truly horrifying that the government of Israel would seek to arrest, humiliate and commit violence against them as they seek to demonstrate their own devotion to their faith, tradition and culture in their own way.

I, my congregation, and all progressive Jews in this country are troubled and saddened by this news. We are saddened at how these actions have undermined the attempts of us Jews in the Diaspora to promote Israel as a solitary democracy espousing the most humane values of our tradition in the middle East. We urge you to act swiftly and justly to acknowledge the gross injustice perpetrated against Anat Hoffman and the two women who were arrested following her arrest. We ask you to immediately address this matter with the government of Israel in order to ensure that no woman will again be brutalized or arrested for seeking to pray or show her devotion to her faith at the Western Wall, that place that is so cherished and important to Jews of all types. The Wall is a sublime remnant and testament to our history of persecution and resilience, a symbol of our grit and determination to overcome those who would seek to annihilate us. Do not allow it to become a place where one Jew is allowed to dictate to other Jews how to behave as a Jew. The Wall has been a symbol of our history and resilience. Do not allow it to become a symbol of their defeat.
We would be happy to host you at the synagogue where we would like to invite you to explain these actions on behalf of the government. It is essential for us, as progressive Jews, to understand how we can continue to support and promote Israel in the wider community when we will face the legitimate anger and questions of any one who learns about this incident and others that cause us, and the State of Israel, embarrassment. Please feel free to contact me or my assistant at the coordinates below to arrange a convenient time.

Yours sincerely,
Rabbi Nancy Morris
South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue

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