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Dear Ambassador Oren,
I read with shock and disbelief that Anat Hoffman, a founding member of the Women of the Wall, past member of the Jerusalem City Council and participant in many efforts to improve civil and consumers' rights in Israel, was detained by the Jerusalem police, interrogated, finger-printed, and threatened with prosecution for felony for her leadership role in the Women of the Wall.
This is a terribly shocking new chapter in the sad history of this affair. At stake is Israel's very character as a democratic state that respects human rights, including freedom of expression and worship, and abjures discrimination on the basis of gender in its founding Declaration of Independence. The State and Municipality of Jerusalem have proceeded down a very ominous, regrettable path in this gratuitous escalation, which if allowed to proceed, will do terrible damage to the fabric of Israeli democracy and to its reputation abroad.
The Women of the Wall are an independent group of religious women from all walks of Jewish life who seek the opportunity of women's group prayer at the Western Wall, with talit and sefer torah; that is, Jewish prayer, as is practiced day and night at that site, 24/7.
Can anyone in their right mind begin to comprehend why pursuit of these goals would constitute a FELONY? Have the Municipality of Jerusalem and the State of Israel no more important issues to pursue than the suppression of this group; no more dangerous individuals to pursue than a group of mothers and grandmothers seeking to pray at Judaism's holiest site? Are women at prayer to be prosecuted as felons while thugs who attack them physically and verbally, including with threats of violence and antisemitic defamation, to be coddled; the holiest site to all Jews left to their vigilante actions?
We ask you to convey to the Government of Israel our strongest protest against these absurd and dangerous actions.
Jan 7, 2010
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