Anat Makes a Difference

September 4, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Anat Hoffman is hailed as Israel’s Erin Brockovich…a woman on a mission to make Israel a better place for its citizens.

Anat Hoffman

As more than 250,000 Israelis took to the streets yesterday to protest the cost of living, Hoffman is currently on a speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand. The former stand-up comedienne now civil rights activist life’s changed after a successful campaign to force Israeli telco giant Bezeq  to itemise its telephone bills. Hofman had been confronted with an substantial bill from the telco without any details…standard practices at that time in Israel. But Hoffman became a woman with a mission when she mounted her campaign to change Bezeq’s way of doing business. Today, every Israeli can check how their shekels were spent.

Hoffman told the meeting: “Israel is way too important to be left to Israelis.

Now she has religion in her sights. She received world wide news coverage last year when she visited the Kotel wearing a tallit and carrying a torah. This is forbidden practice for women and Hofman was arrested but she is yet to be charged.

She said: “Israel is way too important to be left to the Israelis”. She explained that there had been so much support for her case from around the world that the authorities have not yet made a move to charge her.

The Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Centre  told a breakfast meeting in Sydney that she is prepared to go to jail for the offence.

She continues to campaign for women’s rights to pray in the way they wish at the Wall.

Hoffman became a Jerusalem councillor standing on a platform of civil rights. The New Israel Fund Australia president Robin Margo introduced Hoffman saying that she continues to campaign against the orthodox community “imposing its will on the non-orthdox residents of the city”.  He added that she also fights for equal pay for women.

Hoffman began her address referring to the Reform movement becoming a leader in civil rights and referred to Religious Action movement’s work in Israel and Washington.  She voiced concern that some factions of the orthodoxy had gone so far as to say that Yigal Amir  was justified in assassinating Rabin.

She voiced concern that the Israeli taxpayer contributed to  4000 State paid rabbis in Israel plus non-rabbis who work in religious roles.

Hoffman said her organisation had identified 49 rabbis “who are racist”.  She explained that they write demands that Israelis should “not rent apartments to Arabs”.  She said that there are laws in place in Israel against this and her organisation is demanded  an investigation, now underway, be mounted as to the activities of the 49 rabbis

She cited case in which a supermarket in Mod’in where Arab employees pack the purchases after Israeli staff have processed the checkous. A packer took a checkout girl out on a date and the owner of the supermarket was informed. He went personally to fire them both and their supervisor implementing a new rule that the packers must  remain a minimum of 10 meters from the checkout staff..

Hoffman expressed her concern that the idea Judaism equals racism is”unpalatable” and praised the NIF for funding her organisation’s campaign to combat it.

She stressed the point that Israel has infrastructure to effect disciplinary measures on all its leaders including the  president,and prime ministers…but there is no infrastructure to impose disciplinary measures on the country’s rabbis.

Admitting that the Rabbis do have their own disciplinary system she outlined that not one rabbi had been publicly disciplined in 63 years.

She told the meeting that plans were underway in Sfat to build a new nursing education centre but Arabs would find difficulty in finding accommodation as the chief rabbi of Sfat was discouraging renting to Arabs. offering $100 compensation to those who refused to do so.

Hoffman turned for focus to the “Israeli Spring” calling it a modern-day miracle. She said: “This was a generation we had given up on. They never read papers and spend most of their time SMS-ing and playing computer games.

This generation lead us into the streets and the tents have become a great success. Now we hear the expressions ‘Social Justice, Equality, solidarity’.”

The Israeli Spring has produced 1500 tents in Tel Aviv with classes and music.  Hoffman added: “They are returning to Judaism. When there is a difference of opinion, there is no violence…even though there are lots of reasons for it.”

She said the protester want new priorities complaining too much is spent on security, settlements and the orthodox,

Turning her focus to The Western Wall she said that 12m was allocated for women and 40m for men. Hoffman pointed out that over 20,000 Barmitzvahs had been held at The Wall but at a place where women are commanded to pray silently, there had never been a Batmitzvah.

Who decided the Jewish values? She says the Rabbi of the Wall Rabbi Shmuel Eliyohu is entitled to his views and is not happy with what her organisation is are doing but Hoffman feels the secular State, a democracy, has to retain its values.

She believes if the State does nothing, matters will get worse. We are now fighting the segregated buses…2500 routes each days segregated on the basis of religion. Orthodox women have to enter and exit as well as sit at the back of the buses. There are post offices where you can only buy a stamp from someone of your own gender….orthodox women call us daily pleading “save us from our rabbis”

Hoffman told the meeting that they had successfully campaigned the bus issue. Today there are only 600 runs a day with segregation and and on the liberated bus routes, anyone harassing a passenger can be arrested.  She pointed out that Freedom riders regularly take on the system. Jerusalem’s newly launched light rail has no segregation.

When questioned about unconditional support for Israel she said that when truth is so accessible it’s hard to have unconditional support saying “so we have to teach the truth about Israel….it is the greatest achievement of the Jewish people. To close your eyes to the truth and live on fables serves no useful purpose.”

Other issues on the Hoffman menu include freedom of choice in marriage, conversion, which today is recognised in all forms for the purposes of Aliyah only 18 year battle. She said that within Israel there are 126 converts for 6 years converts who do not want go aborad to become converted.

Hoffman works hard too for the disabled and was successful in having the deaf exempted from car radio tax.

Hoffman told J-Wire that the appeals to her for action do not come solely from the Reform movement and the ultra orthodox. She said: “There is a rising tide of concern from mainstream orthodox women, many of whom would like to participate more fully in their religion.”

Anat Hoffman will speak this evening at Melbourne’s Beit Weizmann.







5 Responses to “Anat Makes a Difference”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    I must take issue with my good friend Paul.
    The cases he is referring to are at the very fringe of Orthodox “impositions”.
    There is a vast difference between what is casually objected to in Orthodoxy ex catedra, being also the intentional avoidance by those objectors of ultra Orthodox quarters, thus allowing them to practice all their beliefs, and intentioanlly provoking, planning with ostensive viciousness demonstrations of “objections”. I am satisfied that, in spite of my own passion for universal culture, the immersion in Torah by the bahurim has its own specific merits. While, unfortunately, I am not anywhere as doct in matters Halachic, I find that those who excell in Torah knowledge provide me with the most dependable sources of wisdom, one to which I aspire. The old “conflict” between serving in the IDF and pursuing spiritual ways with apparent “exclusivity” has seen in the past decades adjustments, the kind that one must concede as being part of the dynamics of the very Orthodoxy we are discussing.As far as the groups engaged in bitter oppsotion to Zionism, I am in complete agreement with my (still) good friend Paul.
    Fact remains that Anat Hoffman is not demonstrating any degree of understanding and tolerance for the essentials of Judaism, as promoted by the Orthodoxy she is fighting so openly and in such a damaging manner against.
    I always consider the two inescapable facts:
    – Without the IDF Israel could not survive
    – Without a strong respect of the fundamental, indeed Orthodox, Judaism our world could not survive.
    In both above cases: Has vSholem !!

  2. attamalik says:

    This is great service to state of Israel by Annat. Extremism in religion is like a fire; please don’t play it, put a bit in the mouth of Rabbis else you face a situation like Pakistan.

  3. Miriam says:

    This is so ridiculous, especially the part about the bus “segregation”. The only buses that are separate are those in Charedi/Ultra-Orthodox areas, and it’s not about discrimination, it’s for the comfort of both parties. I am a Charedi woman and I don’t know any women who are upset about this– we have privacy to nurse our babies and to sit next to people we’re comfortable sitting with, instead of squished up with men. In fact, on many of the buses, the backs are larger than the fronts. And the reason for the back/front division is simply because the bus driver is in the front and most bus drivers in Israel are men.

    Furthermore, if all the seats are taken in the back of the bus, the women just sit in the front half, and no one says a word to them. In fact, the first time I went on one of these buses I didn’t know there was separate seating and I sat in the first seat, and no one even mentioned it. I only realized after the bus filled up and I was the only woman sitting in the front.

    The fact is that a significant percentage of the population in Israel is very happy with gender segregation and views it as a sign of respect to both genders. Do you think that there are gender separate post offices in secular communities? No! It’s in the communities where both the men AND the women request it.

    I find her closing statement bizarre: “There is a rising tide of concern from mainstream orthodox women, many of whom would like to participate more fully in their religion.” Women are not only full participants but are well respected in the Charedi communities. As a woman who has been involved with Conservative, Reconstuctionist, Modern Orthodox, and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (in that order), I can say that I, and all the Ultra-Orthodox women I know are full participants in our religion.

  4. Paul Winter says:

    I must take issue with my friend Otto. I find it offensive that hard-core rabbis make rules that most Israelis reject. Otto should know that the polls show that the rabinate is held in contempt by a majority of Israelis. And for good reason. Israel is a modern state and few Jews want to be ruled by Jewish versions of ayatollahs. If Jewish women want to wear talleisim they should not be denied what Moshe ben Maimon allowed his daughters. The ultra-orthodox have a tight control of conversion and while they regard Israeli draft dodgers and anti-Zionists as kosher, they refuse to accept or even convert Jews who serve in the IDF. Even worse, they demand to declare as non-Jews, converts who do not observe all of those rules of Judaism they consider binding. The orthodox industry in Israel uses its electoral muscle to provide benefits for their own, but many refuse to do service or find gainful employment. Their “schools” fail to teach anything other than torah, so their graduants are unfit for secular studies or any gainful employment. Hoffman is right to protest sex segragation on buses and in some stores; those places are not synagogues. She is right in protesting about practises at the kotel; pious and heartfelt prayer by women offends only the primitive and the power hungry. Where Anat is wrong is in playing up the prejudice of rabbis toward Arabs; there is nothing wrong in treating the Arabs in the Galil in the same way that the Hamas inspired antisemitic anti-Israel imams incite Arabs to treat Jews. If Hoffman finds discrimination wrong, she should protest against mohammedans displaying prejudice and violence against Jews in the Jewish state. So, while there is much to commend Hoffman’s struggles, when she veers off from her battle for the rights of Jewish women and starts babbling about the rights of Arabs and is supported in that by NIF, I get a very uncomfortable feeling that Hoffman might just be like the Greens: find a good cause and then use it to advance a subversive agenda.

  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    Vaunting the virtues of Anat Hoffman is,most definitely,consistent with what NIF/NIFAu stand for.

    Promoting aggressive anti Jewish Orthodox stances has as much to do with Jewish identity as a duck has with playing the violin. By the same token, virulent abuses against basic tenets of Judaism has a lot to do with providing visceral anti Semitism the kind of oxygen only highly irresponsible people can engage in. There is a habitual reference to the option of a non Jew to engage in highly vicious anti Semitic practices and the respective expected,normal, Jewish objection to it, as in ” What if a non Jew would utter the same offensive comments about Orthodox Rabbis ?!”. To mine, Anat Hoffman’s disturbing bile at Orthodox Rabbonim is not at all any different to any and all venimous traditional attacks on ALL Jews.
    If Anat Hoffman expects a modicum of respect , spreading poison against Orthodox Judaism won’t mitigate for any !
    There is nothing about Anat Hoffman but her intense desire to provoke, disturb and even hurt an estasblished and legal manner of observance at the Kotel, one which does NOT segregate between genda,but deliniates procedures in simple and unoffensive ways. With anticipated tactics of creating furore, Anat Hoffman has purposely designed the profile of a strange kind of a champion for unworthy causes. Israel and we all need her like the proverbial hole…

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