Anat Hoffman
Anat Hoffman. Photo by Gali Eytan
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Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, is the clear winner of Haaretz’s Person of the Year poll conducted over the past week on Haaretz’s Facebook page in English.

Hoffman, buttressed by an organized voting drive waged by her many supporters, garnered the largest portion of the vote. Following far behind in second place were the founders of Waze, the Israeli navigation app recently acquired by Google, and in third place, Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni.

Our three other candidates – Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Gatekeepers director Dror Moreh and American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – failed to pick up significant support among the thousands of Facebook followers of Haaretz in English who participated in the poll.

Although Hoffman would arguably not have been chosen by Hebrew speaking Israelis as their Person of the Year, her selection fully reflects the prominence that she has achieved across the Jewish world over the past 12 months.

Besides her role at the helm of Women of the Wall, Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel. Previously she served for 14 years as a member of Jerusalem’s City Council, making a name for herself as a critic of Orthodox hegemony and defender of religious pluralism in Israel’s capital.

As head of Women of the Wall, Hoffman’s efforts over the past year to secure equal praying rights for women at the Kotel, Jerusalem’s Western Wall, were at the focal point of media attention and public debate in both the Jewish Diaspora and Israel itself. Her outspoken championing of religious pluralism and gender equality – including several arrests by the Israel police - have galvanized American liberal Jews, for whom Hoffman has become a celebrated Jewish heroine.

No less significantly, the success of Hoffman’s tactics has also captured the attention of many Israelis, highlighting the ongoing struggle for religious pluralism and gender equality in Israeli life.

"The people who voted for me voted for the idea of religious freedom and equality -- an idea whose time has come," said Hoffman upon learning that she was voted Haaretz's Person of the Year. She said she owed the honor to "all my board members, all our founders who are in United States, all the hundreds of women who pray with us every month, all the thousands who show solidarity with us abroad, and of course, all the men who have supported us for 25 years."

Hoffman said she was thrilled though surprised by the outcome of the vote. "I was sure Waze would win," she said. She said she was also happy that two of the top three vote-getters were women.