Israel’s Attorney General has warned the state-appointed haredi Chief Rabbi of the Kotel and other Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinowitz that under law, women must be included in official state ceremonies – including the upcoming official state Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony held at the Kotel (Western Wall).
A-G Rules Kotel Hanukkah Candle Lighting Ceremony Must Be Gender Integrated
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s Attorney General has warned the state-appointed haredi Chief Rabbi of the Kotel and other Holy Sites Shmuel Rabinowitz that under law, women must be included in official state ceremonies – including the upcoming official state Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony held at the Kotel (Western Wall), the Jerusalem Post reported.
Rabinowitz has consistently refused to allow women to participate in that official state ceremony and has also refused to allow them to use a large public menorah that belongs to the Kotel to stage their own public ceremony. Rabinowitz also prohibits people from bringing their own large menorah to the holy site.
The letter sent to Rabinowitz from the AG’s office is part of the AG’s response to a letter first sent to it by Women of the Wall (WoW) and the Center for Women's Justice. The WoW / Center for Women's Justice letter to the AG pointed out that a Ministry of Justice report on gender exclusion published two years ago which reflects the law of the land prohibits excluding women from official state ceremonies.
The AG’s letter written to Rabinowitz Sunday carried the title “Preventing the exclusion of women from the state candle lighting ceremony for Hanukkah” and was signed by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber.
In the letter to Rabinowitz, Zilber asked to see the list of dignitaries invited to this year’s Hanukkah candle lighting ceremonies. It also cited the 2013 Ministry of Justice report and noted it specifically states that “public authorities are prohibited from any separation between men and women even if done following requests from a sector of the public with an interest in the matter [for example, haredim].”
“In light of this,” Zilber’s letter continued, “…we request to confirm [with you] what should be obvious: that you are working towards the integration and participation of women in the state candle lighting ceremonies which will be staged at the Kotel HaMa’aravi this coming Hanukkah.…[It would be] a great help if we would be able to receive the list of those [you have invited and who are] participating in the ceremonies.”
WoW’s chairman, Anat Hoffman, praised the AG’s Office for sending the letter and hoped Rabinowitz would find an appropriate solution. She also suggested the official state ceremony could be moved from the men’s section of the Kotel prayer area, where it has been held in previous years, to plaza area behind it and women’s section. That way both male and female dignitaries could jointly participate.
In response to questions about the AG's letter, Rabinowitz told Ha'aretz he does “not intend to act against the instructions of the attorney general.”