Rabbi of Western Wall refuses lawmakers' request for women’s public menorah

Rabinowitz says including women in a public Hannuka lighting ceremony could be done when a pluralist section at the holy site is opened.

November 18, 2015 21:32
2 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)


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The supervisor of the Western Wall and the holy places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has refused a request by three female MKs to allow a public menorah to be placed in the women’s section of the Western Wall and to hold a public candle lighting ceremony there.

Last week, MKs Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) requested last week ahead of the upcoming Hannuka holiday that Rabinowitz work to either include women in the annual public Hanuka candle lighting ceremony or to allow for a large menorah to be placed in the women’s section for a female lighting ceremony there.

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Although not explicitly rejecting the request, Rabinowitz said in a letter to the MKs on Wednesday that including women in a public Hannuka lighting ceremony could be done when a pluralist section at the Western Wall is opened.

Negotiations between WoW and the non-Orthodox Jewish movements in Israel with Rabinowitz and Cabinet Secretary Avihai Mandelblit to establish such a section have been ongoing for two years but an agreed upon solution has not yet been reached.

Rabinowitz alleged that “extremist organizations,” meaning WoW, were damaging the negotiations by their public campaign for a Hannuka lighting ceremony in the women’s section.

“I suspect that the demand to light candles in the women’s section is simply another provocation for the press, which seeks to deteriorate the discussions [on the pluralist section] once again back to the polarized starting positions, instead of finding a solution for the benefit of the entire Jewish people,” wrote the rabbi.

“I call on you to show patience and to assist the efforts of the cabinet secretary to bring about a conclusion to this complicated, delicate, and important process, which will shortly bear fruit,” he said to the MKs.

Svetlova said she was disappointed by Rabinowitz’s response, and insisted that negotiations over the proposed pluralist section were not relevant to the request to include women in the public Hannuka lighting ceremony.

“I hope that the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affiars Minister Ze’ev Elkin will answer the questions I posed to him: why women, who participate in the economy in an equal manner, pay taxes do not receive equal treatment and do not get an event for themselves at the center of the Jewish people,” said Svetlova. “This is injurious to Jerusalem, to the Diaspora, and to women and I hope that the minister understand that it is his job to ensure that anyone who wants to light menorahs at the Western Wall can do so.”

A similar request made by WoW itself last year was also rejected, and members of the WoW group brought regular menorahs to the women’s section instead for the lighting ceremony.

Women of the Wall also criticized the rabbis response, saying that the negotiations have taken two years so far and could take longer yet to be completed, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene and ensure that a lighting ceremony can take place in the women’s section this Hannukah.

“The repeated use by Rabbi Rabinowitz of the negotiations that have been going on for two years, and could go on for a long time yet, in order to justify discrimination and the exclusion of women is not acceptable to us,” said Tami Gottleib, vice-chairwoman of WoW.

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