Anat Hoffman could end up being sent to prison for praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Orthodox Jewish customs forbid women praying at the site.
She was arrested back last August. She is leading a campaign to allow women to pray at the site in the same way as men. She has been charged with ""disrupting a policeman performing his duties under dire circumstances", The crime carries a penalty of up to three years.
The rapidly growing ultra-orthodox community argue that a woman's role at the wall should be limited to silent worship. Women should not be allowed, to read aloud, sing or read from the Torah.
That Mrs. Hoffman is charged shows the growing power of religious groups in the country. Segregation of sexes is becoming more common. She and her followers had been taunted and even assaulted at the wailing wall. Hoffman said:"They took me to the jail and told me: 'we're going to put an end to this behaviour; you won't get away with it any more'."
In a policy eerily reminiscent of the U.S. south in the past over 100 state bus routes offer segregated services requiring women to sit in the back. A challenge to the practice to the Israel High Court failed. The court said the practice could continue. Some medical clinics require male and female patients to book appointments on different days.
Hoffman said:"The religious world in Israel has become more and more extreme," "Much like in Islam, religiosity is now measured by the distances at which women are kept from society." Recently when her supporters started singing at the wall a bearded ultra orthodox Jew said:"Burn in hell, you dogs." This does not show much appetite for a dialogue on the issue.