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For many Diaspora Jews, the Kotel is a symbol of the millennia-old Jewish connection to the promised land and an inspirational place of pilgrimage and prayer. Secular Israelis are more apt to see the site as a national monument for which Israeli blood was shed during the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel recaptured eastern Jerusalem from Jordanian control.
“It’s a religious bubble there,” said Ofer Pomerantz, a secular Tel Aviv resident. “The average Israeli is not religious. When I think of those places, I think of the blood spilled over them.”
Many secular Israelis also see the fight for egalitarianism at the wall as a distinctly foreign issue. The Reform and Conservative movements, whose members have championed the cause of women’s prayer at the wall, remain quite small in Israel. Most secular Israelis see Orthodoxy as the normative expression of Judaism.
“It’s a holy site,” said Shalhevet Adar, a secular artist who also lives in Tel Aviv. “People who go there know where they’re going. It’s a little annoying, but I’m not fighting.”
Adar described the Kotel as Israel’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a national landmark with historical significance but little spiritual appeal.
Tamar, a filmmaker who asked that her last name not be used, says when she goes to the Kotel, “I’m not looking for more than to be there and put a note in the wall.
“I don’t think about it,” she adds. “I’m busy with my life.”