Women light Hanukkah candles at Western Wall
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Women light Hanukkah candles at Western Wall

MK Ksenia Svetlova forced to invoke immunity to carry large candelabra into holy site’s women’s section

Member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova lights a Hanukkah menorah at the Western Wall with Women of the Wall founding director Anat Hoffman (center), December 6, 2015. (Victoria Polak)
Member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova lights a Hanukkah menorah at the Western Wall with Women of the Wall founding director Anat Hoffman (center), December 6, 2015. (Victoria Polak)

About 100 women gathered at the Western Wall to light Hanukkah candles on Sunday night.

Security guards permitted 20 women to enter with their menorahs, but then attempted to ban and confiscate a large communal one being brought in by the Women of the Wall organization.

Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party used her parliamentary immunity to bring the communal menorah in to the site on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah, the Women of the Wall said in a statement.

“Despite Rabbi Rabinovitch’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 in the statement, referring to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Places.

“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,” Svetlova said.

Last week, the Attorney General’s Office ordered Rabinovitch to include women in the annual national candle-lighting ceremony for Hanukkah in response to a campaign by Women of the Wall claiming that the state-sponsored exclusion of women from the Western Wall ceremony is discrimination and violates government regulations.

The national candle-lighting ceremony was held Sunday night in the men’s section of the Western Wall plaza, where the first candle was lit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A second ceremony was set to be held in an area further away from the Wall with several female government officials, including Knesset members Gila Gamliel and Miri Regev, despite Women of the Wall’s plea for women lawmakers not to attend.

In a statement, Women of the Wall called the event a “second-class Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.”

Sources close to Rabinovitch slammed the Women of the Wall candle-lighting as “provocative,” the NRG news site reported.

“The group brought hanukkiyot [Hanukkah candelabras] and conducted a provocative ceremony that contravened the instructions of the attorney general,” the sources said. “The respectable candle-lighting ceremony, which drew large crowds, as opposed to the disrespectful ones that drew only a handful of participants, is the appropriate response to this provocative act.”

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