This survey was the subject of a Jerusalem Post editorial. Read it here.
62% of Israelis believe that everyone should be allowed to pray at the Kotel in accordance with egalitarian practice and free of any separation between men and women! Only 9.2% believe that non-Orthodox streams and Women of the Wall should be forbidden to pray at the Kotel.
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which marked the beginning of Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies conducted a survey on the status of the Western Wall in light of the changes that have transpired since 1967.
In this survey, Prof. Doron Bar, the President of the Schechter Institute and a historical geographer specializing in the history of sacred sites and the Western Wall since 1967, examined the views of the Israeli public on the Kotel for the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies upcoming conference on the history of the Western Wall. The public was asked the following: How often do they visit the site? How do they feel about the agreement that was reached regarding the Kotel and the rights of the various prayer groups such as Women of the Wall, Reform and Conservative Jews, etc.
The findings of this survey will be presented at the annual Jerusalem conference of the Schechter Institute’s Department of Land of Israel Studies in cooperation with The Research Institute for the History of KKL-JNF. The conference will take place on June 6, 2017 at 5:00 pm. and is open to the general public.
Following is a sample of the results of the survey conducted by telephone during the past week by the Geo-cartography Institute among 500 men and women, who represent a sampling of the adult population in Jewish communities in Israel: 37% believe that the Kotel is both a religious and national site, 30% believe that it is actually a historical site, 26% believe that it is only a religious site, and 4.4% believe that it is only a national site.
Prof. Bar calls attention to the following: “Since the Six-Day War, we have been concerned with the question as to whether the Kotel is a sacred or historical site. From the very beginning, the issue was a matter of dispute. The Kotel’s religious importance was always clearly evident. Yet, starting in 1967, Israelis began to view the Kotel as also having value as a historical, public and national site. From then up until the present time, large segments of the Israeli public continue to believe that these values should be taken into account in developing and maintaining the site.”
The most interesting finding is that the majority of Israelis do not see any need for a separation between men and women at the Kotel and they believe that every person has the right to pray however he or she wants, without any restrictions or preconditions. That is, 62.2% of all Israelis believe that everyone, men and women, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, should be allowed to pray at the Kotel in accordance with egalitarian practice and free of any separation between men and women! Only 9.3% believe that non-Orthodox streams should be forbidden to pray at the Kotel. 17.4% believe that there must be a solution to this issue that allows everyone to pray at the site, with priority given to those who are Orthodox while only 6.1% believe that such a solution should give preference to those who are non-Orthodox.
Prof. Bar asserts: “It appears that a growing number of people in the Israeli public feel that the Western Wall has been “stolen” from them. Instead of being a popular religious and national site it has been transformed into a place controlled by a very narrow segment of the population, who force upon the public a very constrained type of visit.” Prof. Bar believes that this coercion has distanced Israeli society from the Kotel during the past two generations: “Such a situation is very sad when one takes into consideration the reality during first few decades following the Six-Day War – then the Kotel was a magnet for many Israelis; it represented an important religious and national site.”
The next question on the survey, composed by Prof. Bar, assessed this issue by questioning the frequency of visits to the Kotel. 22.2% of those surveyed visited at least once every 6 months while the majority of Israelis, 33.9%, visit at least once every 2 years. 21.4% visit once every 2-5 years and 20% of Israelis rarely visit the Kotel at all. Only 3.1% declared that they had never visited the Kotel. Prof. Bar explains: “According to these results, the vast majority of Israelis seldom visit the Kotel and 45% visit only once every 5 years or even less than that, with a small number never visiting. These findings clearly demonstrate that the majority of Israelis feel alienated and disconnected from the Kotel.”
24.7% responded that their first visit to the Kotel took place during a school trip, 16.2% came during an independent trip or historical tour, 16% during a family event such as a Bar Mitzvah, wedding, or Brit with 11% visiting as part of a family tour, and 12.5% stated that they will not visit the Kotel during the coming year. Only 0.6% declared that they often visit the Kotel and 0.3% said that they will not visit due to security considerations.
Prof. Bar concludes: “The future of the Western Wall depends upon us. If Israeli society as a whole will continue to be indifferent, uninterested and uninvolved in the site, then the existing trend of an estrangement from the Kotel will continue. In order to restore the Western Wall to Israeli society, we must express an interest in it, visit, and be determined to reinstate it on the agenda of today’s Jewish-Israeli society.
For further details and arranging interviews, phone Shelly Paz 054-2488086
Photo Credit: Meunierd / Shutterstock.com