by Leah Aharoni
“We will have a sit-in… We will use the toilets [at the Kotel],” was what Anat Hoffman had to say in response to a new area built specifically to accommodate Women of the Wall by the Israeli government.
Think of a place that is dear to you, a place you hold sacred. Would you ever be able to use such language about it? Are these the terms you use to think of that place?
Though Anat Hoffman pays lip service to the feelings of reverence most Jews have for the Western Wall, she sees the place as an “opportunity,” a convenient battlefield for her never-ending struggle to get respect from those she has no respect for.
About ten years ago, one of the left-wing Israeli parties ran a very truthful elections ad. “If the political stances that had been unthinkable 20 years earlier, such as talking to the PLO, had become the norm,” the reasoning went, “we will be sure to make things that are unthinkable now, such as dividing Jerusalem and granting Palestinians the right of return, into facts on the ground in not so distant future.” Israelis even have a term for these tactics – the salami method.
Anat Hoffman, who is a long-standing Meretz activist and one of the founders of the uber-left Women in Black fringe, has applied the salami method to her fight at the Kotel. She has set her sights far, at a goal that seems unattainable at present – transforming the Western Wall, the holiest site accessible to the Jewish People, from a religious shrine into a secular “national monument.”
And this is why no solution will ever satisfy her. Hoffman pines for a day she envisions 50 years down the line, when nobody would remember the Kotel as a place of prayer conforming to millennia-old Jewish conventions.
I am sure that there are members of WOW that would seek compromise for the sake of unity and their ability to pray undisturbed. But it seems their voices of moderation are being shunted to the side by others, whose agenda is far from prayer. Women of the Wall’s leadership rejected the compromise out of hand, calling it “crumbs,” because while there are many sincere women in the group, their leader has squeezed all that she could out of this opportunity and has moved on to her next slice of salami.