The Knesset on Wednesday held a plenary session following a motion for the agenda submitted by MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) on the exclusion of women from the official Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall.
”After I learned of the intention of the Kotel`s rabbi (Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chief administrator of the Western Wall) to prevent women from participating in the ceremony, I asked him to authorize a coinciding ceremony in ezrat nashim (the women`s section at the Western Wall). The rabbi called my request a `provocation` and has yet to respond to it,” Rozin related. ”He suggests that women view the ceremony from the gallery. This is akin to throwing women to the back of the bus.”
In response, MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said ”the haredi public does not take part in candle-lighting events because they do not fit its character, and it exercises restraint while these events are taking place. Why is the state displaying such weakness in the face of such as small group relative to the millions who visit the Kotel?”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said, ”There is no halachic issue here, because women are permitted to light [Hannukkah] candles. State ceremonies are conducted by both men and women, together.”
Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said if the women are insisting on taking part in the ceremony for the sake of freedom of worship, ”then this is a legitimate stance, but it needs to be consistent, and I would expect to see MK Lavie at the head of the camp that demands to allow Jews to ascend the Temple Mount and pray there, but on that issue you (Lavie) present a position that is much closer to the responsibility displayed by the Kotel`s rabbi, so I find it hard to be impressed by the vehement claims that freedom of worship is being violated.”
This year, Women of the Wall, a feminist prayer group that has been fighting for women to pray as they see fit at the Kotel, launched a public campaign urging Israeli dignitaries to boycott the official Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony if women continued to be excluded. Both this year and last year, the Center for Women’s Justice, an advocacy organization, sent letters to the attorney general’s office urging the state to intervene in the matter. On Tuesday the attorney general’s office ordered Rabbi Rabinowitz to include women in the official Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.