Today in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. America takes off this Monday to honor the amazing courage and genius of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His tenacity, his spirituality and his sense of human dignity transformed our world. Tragically the assassin’s bullet put a stop to his life in April of 1968. But the bullet couldn’t stop the ideas, the fervor of freedom and liberty that King’s non-violent movement for civil rights and equality worked so hard to attain. Just because America elected an African-American president doesn’t mean that we have achieved Dr. King’s vision for our country or our world.
We honor Dr. King today because he is a true hero in every sense of the word. He kept a vision of hope alive
King’s ideal are still worth achieving. We have made incredible progress in some areas but much remains to be done. Racism still raises its ugly head. Homophobia is rampant-just look at the way the radical Christian right wing continues to fear monger around equality for gay people. Anti-Semitism washes over the world as Iran keeps hate-mongering and the world remains silent.
One of my sheroes is another champion of justice. That is Anat Hoffman. Anat is a former city council person for the city of Jerusalem. She presently runs the Israel Religious Action Center which fights always for human dignity and equality in Israel. Whether fighting for the rights of Bedouins to equal education or the simply right for women to pray and have equal access to religious sites, Anat is a champion of fairness, liberty and a vision of a world where human dignity is primary.
Recently on January 5, Anat was arrested and fingerprinted and interrogated by the Jerusalem police because she is a leader of the group the Women of the Wall. This group meets monthly on the new Jewish month to pray at the Kotel, The western remaining retaining wall of the ancient Jewish temple. In November a member of the group was arrested for carrying a Torah scroll, wearing a tallit (a prayer shawl) and praying at the wall with a group of women. Nofrat Frankel, a conservative Jewish woman brought the ire of the rabbi of the wall to the fore and he had her arrested. Anat may also be charged with a felony for so-called “violating the rules of conduct”.
Prayer violates the rules of conduct at a holy site? I thought that is what we were supposed to do? This charade by the Police in service of the patriarchal and close minded Israeli rabbinic (so-called) authorities perverts Judaism, perverts the idea of religious freedom in a democracy.
Anat is one my sheroes and she is like Dr. King who wasn’t afraid to use non-violence in service of human dignity and freedom.
So today on MLK Day let us call to mind the plight of the Women at the Wall and contact your closet Israeli consulate to protest treatment of these brave women who are willing to expect that both men and women should have equal access to pray and to have religious freedom. If the men at the wall don’t want to see or hear women pray–then they can close their eyes and buy some ear plugs. But we should not stop the prayers from flowing. That is the real crime.