Allow women to light Hannuka candles at Western Wall, lawmakers demand

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall and the holy places, was urged by lawmakers to let women at holy site stage their own Hannuka ceremony.

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November 11, 2015 04:00
3 minute read.
WORSHIPERS PRAY at the Western Wall in the capital during Hanukka last year.

WORSHIPERS PRAY at the Western Wall in the capital during Hanukka last year.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Three MKs have called on Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall and the holy places, to allow a Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony to be staged in the women’s section of the Western Wall for the upcoming holiday.

MKs Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) made their call following a campaign launched this week by the Women of the Wall prayer-rights group, which is calling on public officials to refuse invitations to participate in the annual public candle-lighting ceremony staged at the Western Wall.

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A Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony is staged every year at the Western Wall in the men’s section of the plaza, in which prominent leaders and public officials are invited to light the Hanukka lights each night of the eight-day holiday.

Women are not invited to participate, however.

WoW argues that the Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony is a state-sponsored event, in which public figures stand in a public space and, as such, women should be able to participate in the ceremony and also be able to view it adequately.

The group says that as the women’s and men’s sections of the Western Wall are divided by a tall separation barrier, or mechitza, it is difficult for the women to view the candle-lighting ceremony.

Last year, Women of the Wall wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under whose authority the supervisor of the Western Wall and holy places is found, to request that a Hanukkah menorah, or hanukkia, equal in size to that in the men’s section, be erected in the women’s section.



The Prime Minister’s Office passed the letter on to then-deputy minister for religious services Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who passed it to Rabinowitz.

Rabinowitz responded that the ceremony takes place in the men’s section of the Western Wall plaza, meaning that women could not take part in the lighting ceremony, and stated that the hanukkia is visible from the women’s section.

Members of the WoW group brought regular hanukkias to the women’s section instead.

Svetlova noted that she lights the hanukkia at home, and had sent a request to Rabinowitz to allow a candle-lighting ceremony to be conducted in the women’s section this year.

“I am sure that this year you will be able to make the effort to bring merit to everyone in this mitzva, all the more so since there is no problem in Jewish law [for women to light the hanukkia], and which is a commandment on all of us,” the MK wrote in her letter to Rabinowitz.

“Judaism and its leaders belong to us all, women and men alike, and I am hopeful that Rabbi Rabinowitz will hold a parallel ceremony in the women’s sanctions as well,” said Svetlova in a statement to the media.

On Monday, WoW itself sent letters to public officials asking them to refuse to participate in the official candle-lighting at the Western Wall, because women are excluded from the ceremony and cannot view it adequately.

Letters were sent to all female members of Knesset, as well as to officials who are usually invited to participate in the candle-lighting ceremony, including the executive director of the Chief Rabbinate, the police commissioner, public security minister, chief of police in charge of the Western Wall area, speaker of the Knesset, leader of the opposition in Knesset, president of the Supreme Court, and others.

“According to Jewish law (Halacha), women are required, as are men, to light Hanukkah candles. The mitzva is greater the more people light the candles,” wrote WoW in its letter. “We would appreciate it if you would see fit to turn to Rabinowitz and demand he change this offensive policy.”

The group suggested that recipients could reject an invitation to participate in the ceremony or speak out against the exclusion of women from the event.”

Rabinowitz’s office declined to respond to the campaign.


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