Women of the Wall succeeded in lighting candles for Hanukkah at the Western Wall even after the rabbi who administers the sacred site defied an official order and refused to include women in the main Menorah-lighting ceremony on the first night of Hanukkah.
Video posted by activists from Women of the Wall shows Kotel security trying to bar them from bringing menorahs into the women’s section of the Wall for a segregated ceremony.
A video of the main ceremony shows a lone female soldier standing behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he lit the national menorah.
Earlier this week, Israel’s Attorney General’s Office ordered Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Places, to include women.
Women of the Wall being denied entrance to the Kotel with a Hanukkah Menorah.Posted by Women of the Wall Nashot HaKotel on Sunday, December 6, 2015
“Preventing women from participating in national ceremonies is wrongful discrimination and we request that you ensure this fact is not taken for granted and that steps are being taken to include women in the national candle-lighting ceremony on this coming Hanukkah at the Western Wall,” Assistant Attorney General Dana Zilber said last Monday.
The rabbi said then he had invited several women government officials — and that that should suffice.
“To my regret, they are exploiting my wish to bring peace to the Kotel to undermine and harm the delicate balance,” he said.
The Women of the Wall group managed to finally get some 20 menorahs to the women’s section, including a large communal one, but only when a female member of the Knesset, Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party, used her immunity to get past the guards.
“Despite Rabbi Rabinowitz’s ridiculous regulations and despite the police’s shameful attempts to keep us out, we entered and held a candle-lighting ceremony where women were full participants,” Svetlova said.
“The Western Wall belongs to the entire Jewish people, women and men alike, and the time has come for real equality — at the Kotel, in the Rabbinate and beyond.”
In the end, about 100 women, including several female IDF soldiers, participated, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Still, the women were disappointed they one once more barred from the main event, calling their’s a “second-class Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.”
John Oswald is The Forward’s deputy digital media editor.