50 women lit Hanukkah candles with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall’s women’s section. The ceremony was an alternative to the official candle lighting ceremony, which is conducted in the men’s section, excluding women.
Fifty women arrived this evening (Wednesday) to a celebratory lighting of Hanukkah’s second candle with Women of the Wall. A large menorah, and many personal ones, lit up the women’s section of the Kotel, despite the Wall Rabbi’s attempts to prevent women from participating in the official candle lighting ceremony, held in the men’s section of the Western Wall. The alternative ceremony initiated by Women of the Wall is held every year in order to enable women to fulfill a mitzvah to which they are obligated according to Halacha.
This past Sunday, the national menorah was placed at the men’s section of the Western Wall, where women are not permitted entry. This is a decision made by Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Kotel Rabbi, which effectively denies women the right to participate in the official lighting ceremony.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation distributed a list of men who would have the honor of lighting Hanukkah candles in three areas of the Western Wall: The men’s section, the Western Wall tunnels, and the balcony of the Idra Yeshiva. The only woman who agreed to participate in these ceremonies is Gila Gamliel, Israel’s Social Equality Minister, who will be lighting the third candle on the yeshiva’s balcony.
WOW Executive Director, Lesley Sachs: “It’s outrageous that the Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, has agreed to participate in the ceremony conducted by the Wall Rabbi. This ceremony notoriously discriminates against women, by permitting them to light a candle at a remote balcony, and removing them from the public ceremony. The minister’s kowtowing to the Wall Rabbi’s restrictions, and settling for lighting a match without sounding her voice in a blessing is a disgrace to women in Israel.”
WOW Deputy Chairperson, Tammy Gotlieb:“Just like in previous years, we refuse to abide by the Kotel Rabbi’s ignorant rules. Hanukkah is the festival of light and we will keep having ceremonies at the Wall, which will enable women to fully express any Jewish practice. In the year 2017, more and more women and men understand the absurdity of place a large menorah and holding a meaningful ceremony at the men’s section of the Western Wall, which effectively prevents women from participating. We’re happy to see more and more people refusing to submit to women’s exclusion from the public sphere and we’re delighted to have them join our ceremony. “
About Women of the Wall:
WOW is a group of religious women from all denominations (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) who pray at the Western Wall every “Rosh Hodesh” (beginning of the month) and have been fighting for 28 years for equal rights for women in praying at the Western Wall. The group wishes to pray according to Jewish Law (Halacha), in a group and out loud; to read from a Torah scroll; and to put on tefillin and tallit, at the section known as the Women’s Section of the Western Wall.
Following a 3-year-negotiation, the Kotel Agreement was approved in government on January 31, 2016, by a 15 to 5 majority. The agreement stated that a third section be established, designated for Women of the Wall and pluralistic movements’ prayers. The agreement was voided by a cabinet vote on June 25th, 2017. The Supreme Court will be hearing the case in an expanded panel.