Jerusalem Post Editorial: Lighting the darkness

Two lighting ceremonies for ultra-Orthodox men only will take place at the Kotel and in the Western Wall tunnel.

December 5, 2015 22:15
3 minute read.
Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot

Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

If there is one thing the Festival of Light has come to represent throughout the millennia, it is rolling back the darkness of oppression, spreading the illumination of religious freedom symbolized by the rededication of the Temple’s menorah.

This year’s celebration of that miraculous deliverance “of the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous” may still fall into the category of wishful thinking, given the present circumstances.

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For thousands of years, the Hanukka lights have above all signified hope – the hope based on the reality of our forefathers’ deliverance “in those days at this time” that it can happen again. All that is required for this to recur today is the same process as before: cleansing the national institutions once represented by the Temple and purifying them.

There have been small glimmers of light in this regard: the misdeeds of various public officials, including MKs and senior police officers, have been exposed to public scrutiny and prosecution. Many of these offenses have involved the sexual harassment of female subordinates, shedding further light on a history of discrimination against women.

The victory of the Jews in the first recorded battle for religious freedom has become all the more poignant in an era when Israeli women are fighting for the freedom to worship at the venerated retaining wall of King Herod’s Temple Mount, the Western Wall or Kotel. Last week saw what might have been considered a minor Hanukka miracle, when the Attorney-General’s Office ordered the public official in charge of administering the Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to include women in this year’s national candlelighting ceremony.

This might have been a small miracle, but Rabinowitz has not conceded defeat, in the spirit of the holiday – the strong male chauvinists into the hands of the weak women supplicants for civil rights. He has decided to move the public ceremony from the Kotel, whose “sacred” space he controls, to another venue in the Jewish Quarter, where he has no authority, and “allow” non-Orthodox women and men to participate.

Two lighting ceremonies for ultra-Orthodox men only will take place at the Kotel and in the Western Wall tunnel.

In keeping with the hallowed tradition of justifying the religious discrimination of women and rationalizing the failure to take strong action against it, officials have expressed appreciation for Rabbi Rabinowitz’s great “compromise.”

There is certainly no spirit of compromise on the part of Palestinians who deny the very existence of the Temple and claim the entire Mount as sacred to Islam ever since the Creation. The rededication of the Temple more than a thousand years before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad is just another part of the denial featured in the ongoing incitement to “save” al-Aksa from destruction by the impure Zionists.

The vicious cycle of Palestinian denial comes full circle with their oxymoronic assertion that the Jews intend to replace the Muslim shrines of the Mount with a new Temple – as if there could be a new Temple if one never existed in the first place. Palestinian historiography simply ignores the fact that Jews have been celebrating the purification and rededication of the Temple ever since it was destroyed.

Besides potato pancakes and dreidel games, the observance of Hanukka includes the refusal to submit to the religious demands of a Greek empire practicing idolatry.

In the views of those who support Jewish pluralism, the evil empire today is represented by a Chief Rabbinate, whose ultra-Orthodox dominance over the national shrine of the Western Wall has turned it from a gateway to the sacred to a place of modern idolatry – what philosopher Yeshayau Leibowitz called the “Discotel.”

Today as ever, the holiday commands Jews to rededicate themselves to stand against forces that would destroy Judaism, by keeping alive the flame of Jewish religion, culture, and peoplehood for succeeding generations. A positive step in that direction would be a commitment to separate state and religion, starting with the Western Wall.

We join President Reuven Rivlin who on Friday wished the Jewish people everywhere a happy Hanukka, whose candlelighting reminds us to act as a light unto the nations even during difficult times, to bring light where there is darkness and remain committed to democracy and freedom

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