Kotel rabbi opposes women Hanukkah lighting

After deputy state attorney calls to integrate women in state lighting ceremony, rabbi asks why special section not being used.

Ben Shaul,

Hanukkah lighting at the Kotel - traditionally a men-only affair
Hanukkah lighting at the Kotel - traditionally a men-only affair
Flash 90

Kotel (Western Wall) Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz spoke with deputy state attorney Dina Zilber on Tuesday, regarding the controversial plans to hold a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the women's section of the Kotel.

"According to my personal and Torah-based viewpoint, there is no place for an additional prayer space at the Kotel, and the worshipers and guests should accept the regulations of the site that have been practiced for generations," said the rabbi.

"Despite that, I supported adopting a compromise out of the Jewish view that 'peace is great,'" he said, noting the importance placed on Jewish unity. "I can only be sad at the fact that not all the sides in the disagreement are acting under the same considerations. Particularly at the Western Wall it would have been right for us all to adopt the path of compromise, and not the path of zealousness that destroyed our Temple."

Earlier on Tuesday, deputy state attorney Zilber said that Rabbi Rabinowitz should integrate women in the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Kotel.

"We will seek to ascertain what should be self-evident and needed, that you are working to integrate and incorporate women in the state candle lighting ceremonies," said Zilber. "Preventing the participation of women in state ceremonies such as in this case simply because they are women is unacceptable discrimination."

What about "Ezrat Yisrael"?

According to Rabbi Rabinowitz, an alternative non-Orthodox ceremony lighting of the Hanukkiya menorah (candelabra) can be held at the Ezrat Yisrael section, which was built at the initiative of Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett in 2013, specifically to cater to Reform and Conservative Jews' demands at the Kotel.

"Unfortunately they are taking advantage of my desire to bring peace to the Kotel in order to goad and harm the delicate balance. I will continue using all means to succeed in finding the bridge even with those who are trying to harm that pursuit from all sides. For that reason the idea of Ezrat Yisrael was established, which was supposed to give an answer to all the demands, and it is the place to provide a solution to all the demands."

"In recent weeks they are holding feverish discussions to hurriedly close a long, fragile and sensitive process, led by the government secretary, whose goal is an agreed arrangement of the demands of the different (Jewish) streams at the Western Wall. Just this morning the government secretary held a discussion on this topic," added the rabbi.

Describing the discussions, he said, "for a long period of time the process has been held up, due to far-reaching demands for development and massive construction in the Israel Plaza site. Unfortunately for us all, the events of recent weeks proved even to the last skeptic that the great caution exercised was justified, and that in the Western Wall area we must act with great gentleness and with consideration to all considerations in the area."

"It was forbidden to solve one problem and light a fire (that's already burning) from another direction," said Rabbi Rabinowitz. "From that understanding, a significant breakthrough was achieved to solidify the status of Ezrat Yisrael in a manner acceptable to all sides."




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