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Tuesday, 13 July 2010


This post is not about Karmiel. At first reading you'd think that it bore no relation to the 'reality' of every day Israel outside Jerusalem. It's about Anat Hoffman of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism's Israel Action Centre, who was arrested on Monday (yesterday, 12 July 2010) for carrying a Sefer Torah at the Western Wall of the Temple.

But as you continue to scan the piece you'll see - and may agree - that the unfolding events involve not not only everyone throughout Israel but all World Jewry. You may believe that Ms Hoffman acted provocatively and deserved to be arrested.

You may think - like me - that her action served to highlight both the arrogant stupidity of those charged with the Wall's management and further, how the Ultra Orthodox establishment breaks up families. I consider their actions to be as extreme as so-called 'honour killings'.

Below is Hoffman's version of events:

"Today appeared to be an excellent day for the Ultra-Orthodox hegemony here in Israel.
Before 9.00 a.m., I was arrested for carrying a Sefer Torah on the women’s side of the Western Wall. At the same time - just miles away, the Conversion Bill that would change forever the definition of who is a Jew in Israel - passed its first vote in the Knesset.

"The Ultra-Orthodox are applauding the events of today. They succeeded in preventing women from carrying a Torah and praying at the holiest site of the Jewish people, and they moved one step closer to erasing all recognition ever achieved for Reform and Conservative conversion in Israel.

"It seems like it was a good day for them, and they may be celebrating. But in fact today was a dark day for the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel, and for those working against religious pluralism and civil rights around the world. The real outcome of their “victories” will be the enlivening of the 85% of Diaspora Jewry, which is non-Orthodox, belonging in large part to the Reform or Conservative Movement.

"The events of today bring to light the moral bankruptcy of the antiquated, violent, and intolerant Judaism that defines the Ultra-Orthodox strand of Judaism in Israel today. This stands in contrast to our Progressive Judaism that is committed to the equality inherent in every individual - man or woman, Jew by birth or Jew by choice.

"There is an expression that I love – we must learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. I and the other leaders of the Israeli Reform Movement will take care of things on the ground here in Israel - the police, the courts, the Knesset. Now you must take care of the Conversion bill ... Today starts the countdown of your moving into action to reject this dangerous brand of Judaism. Our voices will be heard and through all of us working together, the Ultra-Orthodox “victories” of today will prove obsolete".

Hoffman and her team then posted the letter I've reproduced below demanding that the Israel Government listens to their plea. They say: "This is not an issue affecting only converts - it is an issue that threatens the very unity of the Jewish people". They are are not kidding!

"The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu

We write to request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the legislation being brought forward by MK David Rotem.

"We are deeply concerned about the intention to grant the Chief Rabbinate sole control over conversion in Israel.  wSuch legislation would be an open attack on the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Jewry, which composes the majority of World Jewry.

"While we are supportive of efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, which we are working very hard to avoid.
Therefore, we believe it is imperative that you, as leader of Israel, and as one who cares deeply about the well-being of Klal Yisrael, intervene and urge immediate withdrawal of this bill".

I'll be returning with a very personal story about this soon.


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