Through these dark days that have descended on all Israel, we need the lights of Hanukkah to illumine our souls. We need to be able to stand together, men and women, young and old, religious and secular, to chase back the darkness and reclaim the light.
In this spirit of unity, three MK’s, Tamar Zandberg, Michal Rozin, and Ksenia Svetlova wrote a letter to the Kotel administrator Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz requesting that the public Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony be held in the Kotel plaza to allow the participation of women or to place a large hanukkia (menorah) in the women’s section so that women could hold their own ceremony.
He said no.
In his reply to the MKs, Rabinowitz wrote that a public ceremony that could include all of Israel would have to wait until a future third pluralistic section of the Kotel is built. At this point, building a third section, although still in negotiations, is looking far less hopeful.
He wrote: “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.”
This is despite the reality that Rabinowitz himself is responsible for dragging the negotiations out for over two years until a new government coalition was formed, one that included the haredi parties and would kowtow to his demands.
It is very sad that in a time when unity, when light, is so needed, Rabinowitz continues to be such a divisive force.
His linkage of a public menorah lighting ceremony to the negotiations for a third pluralistic section make absolutely no sense unless it is to claim that entering into these negotiations was the only concession to the majority of the Jewish people who are not haredi that he is willing to make.
The Jerusalem Post reported on November 19, that Svetlova expressed disappointment in Rabinowitz’s response to the MKs request and that it was not relevant. She said, “I hope that the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs 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.’”
Last year, Women of the Wall, asked Rabinowitz for permission to light a menorah in the women’s section and it was refused. So, instead of illuminating one large menorah, women brought their own menorahs to the Kotel to light. Over fifty women and girls participated. MK Zandberg, who was in attendance at the Kotel last Hanukkah, said "I was touched to light candles with these inspirational women. It is unfortunate that something like lighting Hanukkah candles has to be a controversial struggle, but I am proud to be a partner in this fight."
This year, in response to Rabinowitz’s continued intransigence, WoW has started the It’s my right to light campaign. We have asked public officials to refuse to participate in the segregated lighting in the men’s section and to demand that woman are included. You can join Wow in helping bring light to dispel the darkness by sending a letter to PM Netanyahu http://womenofthewall.org.il/myrighttolight/ and by joining the campaign http://my.israelgives.org/en/myrighttolight.
Since both women and men are obligated to light Hanukkah candles and all also obligated to publicize the Hanukkah miracle, a public lighting of a large menorah in the women’s section of the Kotel should be a given. We need the light of women’s candles, of women’s prayers, to help push back the night.