Religion and Nationalism in Jewish Pilgrimage and Holy Sites: The Western Wall and Rachel’s Tomb as Case Studies

Kobi Cohen Hattab

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Western Wall and Rachel's Tomb in the Holy Land (Known in Judaism as the Land of Israel) were, for many generations, pilgrimage destinations with solely religious significance. In the early Zionist period, and especially during the British Mandate period (1917–1948), they became popular centres of identification and travel, interweaving public and national components with the private and personal. Zionist national ideology made use of religious tradition as a platform for achieving its goals, which aspired to unite identities in a multicultural society. Thus, did Jewish pilgrimage sites in the Land of Israel evolve from purely religious in nature to bearing the complex identity melded from both nationalist and religious meaning. This is particularly evident in the Western Wall after the Six-Day War, as it became one of the central symbols representing the connection between the holy places and the developing national consciousness in the State of Israel. This reality was made possible largely through the spatial separation between religion and nationality at the site. The prayer area served as the space's sacred area, with the customs of Orthodox synagogues upheld and religious ceremonies taking place in close proximity to the Western Wall. The distinct visitors' plaza, on the other hand, was a civic space, where tourists and visitors could watch from a short distance and where national ceremonies were conducted.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligious Pilgrimages in the Mediterranean World
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000836684
ISBN (Print)9781032309286
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 selection and editorial matter, Antón M. Pazos; individual chapters, the contributors.


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