Account of Anat’s Arrest by Tree Mccurdy

Account of Anat’s Arrest by Tree Mccurdy

I have just fifteen minutes ago come from the Jaffa Gate police station
where Anat Hoffman and the WoW Sefer Torah are being held.

This morning I walked to greet the Wall and celebrate Rosh Chodesh in
the company of other women. I passed through the security checkpoint
and the guard on duty took my little bag and felt inside, gently
touching my tefillin, and let me go on. We had a tremendous gathering
of over a hundred women and, even more meaningful to me, on the other
side our male supporters were lined up davening three deep right along
the partition, making sure none of the Haredi could get close enough to
spit on us or throw things. Among these shomerim were four or five
soliders of the IDF present in full uniform. Our police escort was
nervous about how far forward into the plaza we were (because of the
size of the group) and how loudly we were singing, but they remained
courteous and even helpful, gently and firmly turning away the two
women who came over to try to break up the group. A young woman among
the police force slipped out a video camera and was filming us with a
gentle smile on her face. I watched the officer in charge of the
police force quickly and quietly show one woman how to flip her tallit
across the front of her neck like a scarf, in the manner that the
Israeli Supreme Court has ruled it permissable to wear tallit in the
plaza. There were a couple of men who screamed at us from their
places, one of them screaming himself hoarse. I had a great deal of
difficulty davening, with cameras going off in my face, even though I
had an intellectual understanding of the need for witness. Only the
shockingly beautiful sound of our Hallelujah, Psalm 150, a hundred
untrained women in one voice, made me forget every other sound.

It was after Shacharit was over, when Anat brought out the Sefer
Torah, that everything changed. She instructed us in a clear and calm
voice that she was to walk in front and all of us behind, and that we
would walk slowly, to savor the moment, because it had been a long
time since the Sefer Torah had been in processional. When the officer
in charge realized that Anat was going to walk out of the plaza with
the Sefer Torah in her arms, he became quiet upset and I saw him
gesticulating for her to put it away. She kept quietly walking
forward. In utter insanity, the farther *away* from the Plaza we got,
the more upset the police became, the officer now trying to take the
Torah from Anat’s arms. We moved out of the plaza with our men
walking along side us and out of the Plaza, on the exit stairs to
Robinson’s Arch, the place where we are supposed to and expected to be
in processional. That is where the police all-out dog-piled Anat trying to get the
Torah away from her. Anat was holding on to the Sefer Torah with both
arms around her, like a woman trying to keep her baby. At the worst
point, the police had wedged the Torah up and back and a
policewoman behind Anat and directly in front of me had grabbed hold
of the Eitz Chayim and was trying to pull the Sefer Torah over her
shoulder in such a way that the Torah would have tumbled down the
stairs. Women were thrusting their bodies in between the police and
Anat and embracing her, wrapping themselves around her and the Torah
to hold it closer to her body. All of this is happening on a gripless
flight of stone stairs, shuffling feet and the sound of one man
screaming, “Lo Lo Lo Lo!” (No No No No!) like pounding a wall. I had
my hand on the policewoman’s arm as she was reaching out trying to
pull away a woman who was helping hug the Torah to Anat’s body, when I
looked down and saw her gun and felt myself let go, felt my body
afraid of a fellow Jew. At that moment one of the IDF men pushed his
way forward and I watched a uniformed IDF soldier grab a policewoman
of Jerusalem around her middle and rip her away to protect the Torah.
As Anat came to the very top of the stairs they got her away from the
last of us, only Nofrat (the woman was arrested this winter) still had
hold of her and a police officer seized her and *threw her backwards
down the stairs.* She landed on her upper back and shoulders at the
bottom of the stairs as we screamed and rushed toward her, and that
was the moment they got Anat away from us. Nofrat sprang up calling
out “B’seder! Ani B’seder!” (All right– I’m all right!) and looking
frantically for Anat and the Sefer Torah. We bolted up the alternate
staircase and reached the surface in time to see Anat being stuffed
into a police van, her body still curled protectively around the Sefer
Torah pressed against her heart. Again the men were our loudest
voices, bellowing, “B’sho! B’sho” (Shame! Shame!)

We stood in shock as Lesley spoke to us in English and then Nofrat in
Hebrew, confirming that Anat and the Sefer torah had been arrested,
confirming that we had done nothing illegal, that the Supreme Court
ruling was very explicit about what could and could not be done and
did not forbid a woman carrying a Sefer Torah in the Plaza, and we
were certainly within our explicit right to carry it outside the Plaza
where the full assault by the police actually happened, and that now
we were going to march to Jaffa Station and daven musaf for Rosh
Chodesh outside their walls. When we got there, Nofrat leading, we were
told that the group’s lawyer was with Anat, and we were told that she
could hear us from where they were holding her. We sang and sang, and
I was not repulsed by the cameras anymore. Then the waiting began.
Someone went and brought us cases of ice water. The police would not
let us move into the shade and most of the women were dressed for a
sheltered early morning service, not for the glare of full sunlight.
You could tell the Americans because we were turning red like lobsters
while the Israelis stayed the same. Lesley was begging everyone who
could tweet or text or call home to do so and get the word out. The
song I remember the most was “Ozi vzimrat ya, vyahee li lishua” (the
Lord is my strength and my might, G’d is my deliverance). We were
praying for her to be delivered, for her to be redeemed like captive
Jerusalem. We are still praying. When I left at 12:15pm with a
dangerous sunglare headache there were only two women left, one of
them Lesley Sachs, whose cell phone had died destroying all hope of
the in and out communication that is so important to her.

The last thing that we were told is that they were detaining her
pending consultation with the Attorney General. Lesley explained to us
that although the Supreme Court ruling does not forbid a woman
carrying a Sefer Torah in the Plaza the police have been exercising
their right of discretion over all bags brought into the Plaza (a right
they have for secuirty purposes) to prevent Women of the Wall from
bringing the Torah in its familiar duffel bag with them– today the
Torah was hidden in a different bag with a different carrier. We were
told the police are claiming that a woman carrying a Sefer Torah violates
the implications of the Supreme Court ruling by violating Minchag
Makon, the Custom of the Place.

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