people walking on white concrete floor during daytime

Throughout history, people have traveled to sites they hold sacred in order to request divine intercession and strengthen their spiritual bond via self-reflection. This practice, known as a pilgrimage, was very common during the Middle Ages as religion was one of the few deliverances of hope for the people However, as the world has become more secular, how has the meaning of pilgrimages changed?

 Today, pilgrimages don’t necessarily entail a religious aspect. People may go on pilgrimages in order to escape the weariness of everyday life or to reconnect with society. Pilgrimages to religious sites have changed as well as they go beyond just their spiritual function by also helping people to reflect on and find companionship in their shared ancestry.

For Jews, the Western Wall, also known as the Kotel, harbors deep meaning that represents individual and “communal histories” (MJL). The Jewish people have undergone many hardships, and the Kotel provides a place for Jews to unite after centuries of diaspora and oppression.

Per Jewish tradition, the Kotel is all that stands of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The Temple was considered the intersection of God and man, a center of divine communication. Although the Temple has been destroyed for nearly two millennia, the memory of the holy site has been preserved by sacred texts and the ongoing pilgrimages of the Jewish people. As a result, the Kotel has become a “place of memory” which fosters a connection between Jews past and present and helps strengthen the Jewish identity (MJL).

The Kotel also shows the “natural evolution of the Jewish faith” as it has become the center for modern festivals and holidays (Perez). One such celebration is Holocaust Rememberance Day, a commemoration of the despicable acts of the Holocaust inflicted upon the Jewish people. Communities all around the world gather together and watch the Western Wall in order to remind the Jewish people of their shared history and unity. 

Overall, the wall is a reflection of the miseries and triumphs of the Jewish people. It represents how pilgrimages have changed from a solely religiously motivated endeavor to a journey prompted by the quest for deeper ancestral understanding and an exploration of identity in relation to religion. 

Works Cited

Mjl. “What Is the Western Wall?” My Jewish Learning, 

Perez. “Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Memorial Day.” My Jewish Learning.

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