Rachel's Tomb News Updates
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Overview & Comment
Dale Baranowski, Webmaster
Dateline: Jerusalem, Israel, Tisha-B'Av 5762: The last 6 months have brought the Jewish-Arab conflict to new peaks of activity with unprecedented terrorist assaults against the Jewish people in their homeland. As of this writing in July, 2002, over 900 Jews have been murdered in terrorist attacks by Arabs since the Oslo Peace Process was signed between Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, z'l; and Yassir Arafat.
The latest news follows the next frame...
The Palestinians who are shooting at Rachel's Tomb compound have already singled it out as the next Jewish holy site which they want to 'liberate'.
Latest News Updates...
Note: The following news items on the rest of this page are presented in reverse chronological order, that is, the latest bulletins appear first. This is to allow one to also use this as an archive of news items from the very recent past.
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2002 / Tishrei 6, 5763
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(Ahhh! But what do the Arabs have to say about this development....?)
IMRA: Palestinian Official Sets Stage
[IMRA: In the article below, Yasser Arafat's appointed "Mufti
Mufti claims ownership of "Rachel's Tomb"
The Jerusalem Times (independent Palestinian weekly) 19 September 2002
The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, told the The Jerusalem Times this week that the Israeli decision to annex the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque, known as Rachel's Tomb, in Bethlehem to the Jewish Municipality of West Jerusalem was a dangerous escalation in the already volatile situation as the site belongs to the Muslim Wakf. The site also includes also a Muslim cemetery he confirmed.
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Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001 / Cheshvan 11, 5762
Egged has just informed us of a change of route of bus 163 to Kever Rachel pertaining to this Saturday night and Sunday only. The following is a copy of what I sent you yesterday, with the updated information. Please post the update.
Sorry about the mixup!
Kever Rachel Imeinu
This Sunday, the 11th of Cheshvan marks the yahrtzeit of Rachel Imeinu. As you may recall, in previous years, tens of thousands of Jews thronged Kever Rachel on this day. Last year, the Barak government closed Kever Rachel to all Jews as a preliminary step in handing over the holy site to the PLO. Only a handful of Jews came to the Beit Lechem Gilo intersection to attempt to pray near Rachel Imeinu and to protest the outrage. This year, with G-d's help, Kever Rachel is open for Jewish prayer. While the Israeli media is pressuring for an immediate IDF withdrawal from Beit Lechem and other cities currently in our hands, it is vital that thousands of Jews again inundate this holy site and claim for all the world to see that Am Yisrael will not surrender! Please see this message as a personal plea to do your utmost to visit Kever Rachel on Sat. nite or Sunday. Of course, the area will be fully secured by the IDF.
Egged busses #163 (bulletproof) from the renewed central bus station in Jerusalem from platform #5 as follows:
==> This Sat. night: Every hour on the hour from 7:00 PM until 12:00 Midnight
==> This Sunday: Every half hour from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
The bus will make additional stops through Geulah Neighborhood of Jerusalem at the bus stops of bus #1 on Sarei Yisrael, Malchei Yisrael and Shivtei Yisrael streets.
Rachel Imeinu will be happy to see you on other days as well. Kever Rachel is open 24 hours a day for those people travelling in bulletproof vehicles.
Egged bus #163 goes to Kever Rachel at 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Return time is 90 minutes after departure. In addition, shuttle busses enter Kever Rachel daily from the Beit Lechem Gilo intersection every half hour between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Hava'ad l'ma'an Rachel Imeinu
For more information: 056-530-537 or 02-996-1756
IDF Enters Arab Towns
In Large-Scale Operations
Throughout Judea & Samaria
By Dale Baranowski, Webmaster20 October 2001: Rachel's Tomb should be much safer since the Israel Defense Forces entered and encircled six of PLO-controled towns throughout Judea & Samaria. Bethlehem was one of those that our forces took control.
This operation came as a defensive move after hours of gun fire were directed at the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo from Bethlehem and adjacent Beit Jalla. In the latest assault mortar shells were launched toward Gilo but fell short of the residential area.
The IDF Spokesperson explained that the IDF, which is operating on its right of self defense, will continue this operation in order to protect the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel.
The PLO has consistently demonstrated it's lack of desire and/or inability to restrain terror activities and shooting into Gilo so about 3:00 AM on Friday 19 October 2001 the Israeli Army entered Bethlehem and Beit Jalla in a multi-pronged assault. Heavy fighting erupted and the Israel television news reported that the IDF had killed or captured 20 Arabs. The IDF has sustained no casualties.
The Aida Palestinian refugee camp, a short distance from Rachel's Tomb, had been taken over by an Israeli infantry unit.
On Shabbat, 20 October, gunfire from clashes were heard and on Saturday night residents of the Etzion Bloc of communities, just 5 km south of Bethlehem and Bet Jalla, witnessed Israel Air Force helicopters launch air-to-ground missiles at Arab targets.
Hebrew U. professor
to visit to USA and
undermine Israel's position:
'Jews fabricate holy sites, they do not matter'
By Melissa Radler, The Jerusalem Post, 29 May 2001
Jerusalem, May 8, 2001
WOMEN FOR ISRAEL'S TOMORROW (WOMEN
The Committee for Rachel's Tomb: Shelly Karzen 02-996-1756
|23 Nisan 5761, April
For the first two nights the bombardments lasted from about 10 PM until about 2 AM, while on the third night about 30 shells exploded in a 15 minute period. The Israeli government had instituted a policy of "restraint" where the army either turned the other cheek to Arab attacks or was permitted to give only a token reply. This bombardment has become a rare exception to the ongoing refusal to fight back in any meaningfull way.
Women Set Up Tent CampTo Call Attention
To The Danger to Rachel's Tomb
21 Cheshvan 5761, 19 November 2000:
A tent camp has been erected at the Gilo-Tunnels intersection as a base for activities surrounding Kever Rachel. Pressure on the army from this tent camp has already affected the army's decisions regarding Kever Rachel. Visit the tent camp for a few minutes or a few hours to show your support and conviction to keep Kever Rachel open to Jews and in Jewish hands! The
Jerusalem, December 28, 2000
"Protesting and campaigning does help change things." So says Women in Green's Nadia Matar. "Thanks to the incredible response of Am Yisrael over the past week, Matar announced this week, "the buses to Rachel's Tomb have been packed! If in the first two days there were only a few people, now hundreds of worshippers come between 9:00 and 11:00 am. I was there 2 days ago and at 10:00 am close to 150 people were waiting. The buses had to come back and forth a few times to bring everybody in."
to overrun Rachelís Tomb
(BNI-Dec. 4, 2000) The Office of the IDF Spokesman has confirmed that during the night, IDF forces at Rachelís Tomb successfully repelled and attempt to overrun the holy site of Rachelís Tomb in Bethlehem.
15 November 2000: Notice!
Details of Transportation
to Rachel's Tomb!
Women In Green Encourages Visits!
Jerusalem, November 15, 2000For your attention:
As of Nov. 13, the army is providing daily bullet proof buses to Kever Rachel. Buses leave from the Gilo-Bethlehem intersection at 9:00 am, 10:00am and 11:00 am. (For those who were at the Thursday
demonstration: the buses leave exactly from where the demonstration took place). They let 25 people on the bus each time. But if you come with 40 people, they will shuttle the first 25 and then come right back to pick up the others. (At least, that is what they promised me today).
IT IS URGENT to spread the message about these buses as soon as possible and fill them up with as many people as we can.
Because nobody knows about the buses, they have been almost empty. I went there yesterday at 11:00 am and was the only one on the bus with another person. On the 10:00 o'clock bus there were 4 Efrat women. The 9:00 o'clock bus was full because it had been organized.
It is up to us to spread the message about the buses. I have a bad feeling that it has not been publicized on purpose, so that at the end of the week the government will say: "You see, what are you asking to open Rachel's Tomb for? Only 45 people showed up in a week!!"
So, pass this message to as many people as you can. Call friends in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Maaleh Adumim, basically everywhere and come fill those buses. It is true that we are fighting to keep Rachel's
Tomb open the entire day, but that will only happen when so many people show up for the buses, and the demand to daven at Kever Rachel is so great, that they will be forced to open Kever Rachel Imeinu for more and more hours every day.
For those who worry about security -- Kever Rachel Imeinu is probably one of the safest places in Israel today! You get there with a bulletproof bus, with an escort of 2 army jeeps and tons of army around you. The building of Kever Rachel itself has been unfortunately turned into a fortress; so again... there is tons of security there.
Call your friends now and make the bus today and/or tomorrow!
WOMEN FOR ISRAEL'S TOMORROW (WOMEN IN GREEN)
P.O.B. 7352, JERUSALEM
Critically wounded IDF soldier
dies of injuries
13 November 2000The IDF soldier critically wounded in Friday's fighting near Rachel's Tomb, Sergeant Shahar Ukrat, 20, died of his wounds Friday night in Jerusalem. Ukrat was hit in the neck by Palestinian gunfire and was aken to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, Jerusalem. Doctors truggled to save his life, but he died of his wounds.
11 Heshvan 5761/Thursday, Nov. 9, 2000, Rachel Imanu's Yahrzeit:
TO REACH RACHEL'S TOMB,
CLOSED "BECAUSE OF THREATS"
The IDF decision to open Rachel's Tomb to Jewish worshippers today in honor of the 3,553rd anniversary of Matriarch Rachel's death was overturned late last night by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz. The reason: threats by PLO snipers to open fire at the worshippers. The area from Jerusalem's southern army barrier up to the holy site in northern Bethlehem was declared a "closed military zone." However, large forces of soldiers and police did not even allow would-be worshippers to reach the Gilo-Rosmarin junction, a few hundred meters further north. Traditionally, tens of thousands of worshippers visit Rachel's Tomb on this day.
Despite the closure, close to 1,000 people arrived at the junction, demanding to enter Rachel's Tomb; they made several attempts, but were forcefully turned away by police. A small group of Knesset Members of the National Religious Party and the National Union were allowed to enter the site.
MK Sha'ul Yahalom (NRP) described the decision to close the site a "disgrace." He said that such "threats" should be dealt with by informing the PA that there had better not be shooting, and "that if there is, the IDF will deal with it."
The Likud, too, was critical of the decision not to allow prayer at Rachel's Tomb today. MK Danny Naveh said, "After the shameful way in which we ran away from Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, Barak has now surrendered to Palestinian violence at Rachel's Tomb as well. This policy simply encourages the Palestinians to carry out further aggressions." The Fatah movement publicized an announcement boasting of its success in preventing Jewish prayer in Bethlehem.
RACHEL'S TOMB CLOSUREVoice of Israel commentator Chaim Zisovitch, in response to a proposal by Minister Ran Cohen (Labor) that the Rachel's Tomb prayers be re-located to the Western Wall - a proposal later echoed by leading rabbis - asked, "We made such great efforts to ensure Friday prayers for the Moslems on the Temple Mount... What would be the reaction if we told the Moslems to re-locate their prayers from the Temple Mount to some mosque in Bethlehem?" Cohen said
that he personally has strong ties to the site, but repeated that it was dangerous to allow worshippers to arrive today.
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh was asked by Arutz-7's Haggai Segal, "First came Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, then the Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, the Temple Mount is barely in our hands - Rachel's Tomb is next? " Sneh: "No, not at all, the Israeli flag still flies there, the IDF is in charge, and no one has any intention of changing this situation... I never made any guarantees about Joseph's Tomb, and I tell you that we see Rachel's Tomb differently than Joseph's Tomb... Today, though, with the concrete warnings, it's a matter of 'pikuach nefesh' [danger to life], which overrides the obligation to pray there."
Segal: "So all the Palestinians have to do is threaten us, and the holy sites will be closed to us?
Sneh: "At present, there are special circumstances, and it would be immature to ignore this... There is no question about our strong connection to this place, but it would be irresponsible to bring thousands there... This type of clash is won not by one 'smashing blow,' but rather with patience and perseverance, which includes many things... Our final goal in this conflict is that a solution should not be forced upon us from outside - but if we make mistakes, then this could happen. Therefore, even if I have to show restraint when I don't want to, then this is what we have to do. Arafat is demanding the presence of a foreign force here, which we are totally against, and we have to be careful..."
Former MK Chanan Porat was among those who came to show his solidarity with the efforts to pray at Rachel's Tomb. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, he scoffed at suggestions that there was "danger to life" involved in opening the site to Jewish prayer: "Everyone knows that if the IDF wanted, there wouldn't be such a problem, and we could be allowed in... Two weeks ago, I presented to the regional commander an entire program for ensuring Jewish worship here, involving several elements, including opening [the road that leads to Rachel's Tomb] exclusively to Jews, and for a change it will be Arabs who would take a bypass road. In addition, we would threaten that any home in the area from which a shot is fired on Rachel's Tomb would be totally destroyed. The commander praised the proposal, but said that government decisions are required in matters of this nature... The government has clearly decided not to do this, [because] the problem is that there is no desire to win, no elementary desire to preserve the nation's honor..."
Porat expressed his "personal conclusion" that a Jewish community needs to be constructed at the site of Rachel's Tomb. This might have happened earlier had then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol gotten his way immediately after the Six-Day War. Eshkol instructed that Rachel's Tomb be included within the newly-redrawn municipal borders of Jerusalem, but these orders were disregarded, and instead the border was demarcated less than 500 meters away from the site.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Thursday, Nov. 9, 2000 / Cheshvan 11, 5761
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Shas supports Rachelís Tomb ban
(Nov.9 Ė 08:47-IST)(IsraelWire-11/9) Maintaining its support for the administration of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party announced on Thursday morning that it stands behind the decision to close Rachelís Tomb to worshipers on Thursday.
Shas MK Rabbi Shlomo Benizri told Israel Radio that even though he and others in Shas annually visit Rachelís Tomb on the anniversary of her death, the IDF announcement that such a move would place persons in life-threatening danger dictates that persons should not attempt to visit the site.
Benizri made his comments after member MK Shaul Yahalom of the National Religious Party announced on Israel Radio that he and his colleagues would attempt to visit Rachelís Tomb in defiance of the IDFís ban.
Benizri stated that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has issued a Torah ruling forbidding anyone from visiting the holy site on Thursday since one is not permitted to place oneself in life-threatening danger.
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau told Israel Radio that in accordance with the IDFís announcement, he joins the call for persons not to visit the site on Thursday. Rabbi Lau stated that he himself was planning to visit the site at 1:00pm Thursday, in an armored vehicle, but he too has decided to cancel the trip in light of the IDFís assessment of the situation.
Rabbi Lau added that it was he who told the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that ďOne does not part from oneís mother,Ē when the government was planning to entrust security for Rachelís Tomb in the hands of the PLO Authority (PA).
Courtesy of IsraelWire News Service
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November 2000, 13:00 GMT: Israel Defense Force Spokesperson: Approval by GOC Central Command to Hold Prayer at Rachel's Tomb
GOC Central Command, Major General Yitzhak Eitan, gave his approval to hold the annual prayer at Rachel's Tomb, marking the day of her death.
The General set a condition that the event take place after early coordination between the visitors and the IDF, due to the security condition in the region.
(Translation courtesy of IMRA http://www.imra.org.il)
PRAYER AT RACHEL'S TOMB!For the first time in several weeks, Rachel's Tomb was open - if not
officially - to Jewish worshippers today. A group of 30 women from Kiryat Arba and Hevron arrived at the site this morning to pray and recite Psalms, even though they had not received an official army permit; neither were they stopped on their way in. After a short time, the police arrived and ordered them to leave the site, which is an Israeli enclave within the Palestinian Authority city of Bethlehem. Palestinians in fact began throwing rocks at soldiers at the site shortly afterwards.
The police and army agreed that the holy site would be open to Jewish worshippers this Thursday, the traditional anniversary of the death of the Matriarch Rachel. In previous years, tens of thousands of worshippers have arrived at Rachel's Tomb to mark the date. The decision, which the army said must be reviewed prior to Thursday "in accordance with security considerations in the field," came after an official request by former MK Chanan Porat and National Religious Party head Rabbi Yitzchak Levy.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Monday, Nov. 6, 2000 / Cheshvan 8, 5761
Oded Wiener, Holy Sites Authority General Director, about Rachel's Tomb
1 November, 2000
IMRA spoke with Oded Wiener, General Director of the Holy Sites Authority, a government company that handles holy sites on behalf of the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs, in Hebrew, on 1 November 2000:
IMRA: I understand that plans to reopen Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to the public worship today have been postponed.
IMRA: Is there a target date?
Wiener: No. The army has every desire to open the site as much as possible but on the other hand, as long as the current security situation continues as it is then we all agree that "pikuach nefesh" [avoiding life threatening situations] defers everything.
You do not take a risk just to prove something.
So the army has decided that the situation is very sensitive andwants to wait and see how things are before deciding to open the site.
We still are trying, along with the army, to find a solution that will, on the one hand, answer the security needs to minimize risks as we do not want to endanger anyone, while at the same time make it that the current situation does not continue - namely that for almost a month the site has been closed to worshipers.
IMRA: Changes in the set-up have been considered?
Wiener: We thought of a solution that in the morning hours, that are less problematic from a security standpoint, an armored bus that provides protection from gun fire would go three times to Rachel's Tomb from the crossroad outside of Bethlehem. Every hour it would go and it would return on the half hour.
The bus, of course, would have an army escort.
While the army would also like to do this they have decided to wait a while for things to calm down.
IMRA: One could say that this is more subject to the Palestinian than the Israeli side.
Wiener: Yes. We very much want it to change quickly because in ten days, the eleventh of Heshvan, is the memorial day of Rachel. In a normal year around thirty thousand people minimum come that day.
While there is no question that these days not as many people could make it, we would certainly want to have a presence - even a minimum presence - that day. We are working on this but right now the army cannot even commit to that.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-548-0092
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Rachel cries for her children(IsraelWire-11/1) Rachelís Tomb has been closed to Jewish visitors since Rosh Hashanah (Sept 29).
With the annual date approaching on which the passing of the Matriarch Rachel is observed, 11 Cheshvan, corresponding to November 9 this year, The Jerusalem Committee for Kever Rachel is taking steps to make the holy site located a short distance south of Jerusalem accessible to worshipers once again.
The IDF has agreed to reopen Kever Rachel (Rachelís Tomb) in a limited way, on Wednesday, November 1st, Thursday, November 2nd and Friday, November 3rd in the morning. Since the start of the ongoing Arab unrest throughout Israel, the public bus service that once transported visitors to and from Rachelís Tomb has been suspended.
On the three days that Rachelís Tomb will be open this week, one may not attempt to visit in private cars, only by buses organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in conjunction with the IDF and security commanders.
Buses will be leaving the "Mar Elias" intersection (the Gilo/Bethlehem intersection) at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 am. Return from Kever Rachel at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30am.
The Committee for Kever Rachel has announced that it has learned the three mornings are being viewed as a trial period by government officials, to see how the event passes and if there is indeed a demand among Jewish visitors to once again visit the holy site. Committee leaders warn that if Jews do not take advantage of the three mornings to visit the site, then its future may suffer the same fate of Josephís Tomb in Nablus, which has fallen into the control of the PLO Authority (PA).
For additional information, one may contact The Jerusalem Committee for Kever Rachel, Shelli Karzen 02-996-1756 Ministry of Religious Affairs, Oded Wiener 02-625-2054 or 624-0359
IDF orders shutdown of Rachelís Tomb
(IsraelWire-1/11-11:10-IST) The Committee for Kever Rachel (Rachelís Tomb) has just learned that due to the serious Arab rioting in Bethlehem Tuesday night, Rachelís Tomb will not be open to worshipers during the morning hours this week as planned.The holy site has been closed by the IDF until further notice.
The Committee for Kever Rachel is calling upon the public to
bombard the Ministry of Religious Affairs with telephone calls protesting the closure of the holy site.
Ministry telephone numbers 02-625-2054 or 624-0359
Courtesy of IsraelWire News Service
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Ha'aretz: The Palestinians who are shooting at the Rachel's Tomb compound have already singled it out as the next Jewish holy site which they want to 'liberate'.
By Nadav Shragai, Ha'aretz, 31 October 2000
A few days ago, someone posted the poem by poet Yitzhak Shalev, "I See Barricades," on one of the billboards in the town of Efrat, where last Thursday in the early morning hours the Tifferet Avot (Glory of the Patriarchs) synagogue was desecrated:."I see barricades rising again on the road to Efrata," wrote Shalev 12 years ago, after the signing of the Camp David agreements, "Ghost barricades arise from the land of 1948 / And I see a narrow opening, and a line where Jews wait / For the soldier's permission to come to Rachel's Tomb / And a green flag flies over the Tomb / And all the camps of Palestine are spread out in a battalion / And I hear again the voice, the voice of bitter weeping / Rachel is mourning her sons..."
The "green flag" (of Islamic fundamentalism) is not flying above Rachel's Tomb as yet, but except for that, Shalev's prophecies have been almost completely realized. Almost every night, shooting battles take place around the tomb compound. The IDF no longer allows Jews to visit, in spite of the fact that the compound, which is only 480 meters away from the area of Jerusalem's jurisdiction, as well as the road to it, are defined as Area C (complete Israeli control). The students of the yeshiva... are also not allowed to go the Tomb, which has become a forward outpost of the IDF.
The anniversary of the death of Rachel will take place in another nine days, according to Jewish tradition, on the the 11th of Heshvan 5761 (November 9, 2000). Porat and his friends are not willing to accept the decree, and have
already made a formal request to the prime minister to allow them to hold a "mass prayer meeting, as is done every year," and "to take all necessary steps to guarantee the security of the worshipers."
The Palestinians who shoot at the compound every day have already singled it out as the next Jewish holy site which they want to "liberate." Already last Yom Kippur the Palestinian Authority newspaper Al Hayyat al Jedida published an article entitled: "After the liberation of Joseph's Tomb - Can we liberate the Belal ibn Rabakh mosque? (the Arabic name for Rachel's Tomb).
"Rachel's Tomb, or the Belal ibn Rabakh mosque," the article stated, " is one of the nails hammered into many Palestinian cities by the occupation governments and the Zionist movement. The outpost lies at the northern
entrance to the town of Bethlehem. After the Oslo accords, the place became a military outpost surrounded by a beautiful marble wall, and a Jewish synagogue and other rooms were built ....
"The Palestinians," reported Al Jedida, "affirm that this tomb is fake, and that it was originally a Muslim mosque ... until the occupation forces captured the Palestinian territories and considered the place to be Rachel's Tomb. The question is whether after the evacuation of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, the Palestinians will succeed in forcing the occupation to evacuate Rachel's Tomb as well."
In sermons given in the mosques, the mosque is also referred to as the next brick which must be removed from the Jewish-Zionist edifice, after Joseph's Tomb.
IDF soldiers posted in the compound do not read Al Hayyat al Jedida, and they hear the muezzins only from a distance, but the comparison between Joseph's Tomb and Rachel's Tomb angers many of them. "Rachel is the mother. Joseph is the son," said one of the soldiers, sharing his feelings.
"Joseph," added his friend, "is buried in Nablus, out of sight, out of mind. The place reserved here for Mother Rachel is entirely different from that which was reserved for the tomb of Joseph."
An observant Jew, a resident of the nearby Gilo neighborhood, who tried on Friday to go to the compound in order to pray there, heard for the first time from the soldiers that the tomb has been closed already for several weeks. "And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Efrat, which is Bethlehem," the man started reading from the book of Genesis, in front of the soldiers at the barricade. "And Jacob set a tombstone upon her grave," the man continued, "that is the tombstone of Rachel's tomb to this day." The soldiers very politely followed orders. "You can't go through," they explained to him patiently. "They're shooting."
After the Six-Day War, Rachel's Tomb was almost annexed to Jerusalem and included within the sovereign border of the State of Israel. Only a few hundred meters separate the barricade at the southern exit from the city and the site, which was sanctified by Jews for so many generations. Levi Eshkol, as prime minister in 1967, instructed his justice minister, Yaakov Shimshon Shapiro, to include the tomb within Jerusalem's new jurisdictional borders, and was angry when he discovered that his instructions had been ignored.
In his book "Jerusalem, A City Without a Wall," Uzi Benziman writes that Shapiro considered the drawing of the borders a security issue only, and that in such matters he always relied on Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Dayan did not want to include Rachel's Tomb within Jerusalem's boundaries. He was supported by Interior Minister Moshe Haim Shapiro, who thought that international sensitivity stemming from Israeli control of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City was bad enough. Minister of Religious Affairs Zerah Wahrhaftig differed with them. He was not satisfied with Israeli control over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and wanted to transfer the Church of the Nativity in Bethelehem to Israeli control as well. In his opinion, the two places which are holy to the Christian world should be included within the borders of the State of Israel, "so that the Christian world would recognize [Israel's] importance.
But the ministerial committee which discussed the issue rejected his view in favor of that of the ministers of justice and the interior. Only half a year after the Six-Day War did Eshkol discover that his request had not been honored, and that Rachel's Tomb had remained outside Jerusalem's borders. Upset at what had happened, Eshkol investigated why his instructions had not been carried out.
Almost 30 years later, Rachel's Tomb was once again forgotten. The Israeli negotiating team for talks with the Palestinians had already agreed to include the tomb and its environs in the area of the city of Bethlehem, which has been transferred to the complete control of the Palestinian
Authority. Only after the uproar raised by the religious parties, and frequent meetings on the issue held with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and with his successor Shimon Peres, were the Israeli negotiators ordered to take back the agreement. This change "cost" Israel other concessions, which the Palestinians demanded in exchange, but finally the tomb remained under Israeli control, with a road hundreds of meters long separating it from the Gilo barricade in the south of the city.
The situation at Rachel's Tomb took on many different forms over the generations. "The Unknown Tourist from Bordeaux" mentions it in the year 333 C.E., and a Christian tourist who visited the country in 670, tells of the tomb, which is in the form of a tombstone made of simple stones, without any ornamentation. Tourists in later generations tell of a tombstone made of 11 stones, one for each of Jacob's sons, and above it a dome built on four columns. Another Jewish tourist, Rabbi Petahia, who passed through the country in 1180, describes it: "And on her tomb there are 11 stones, one for each tribe, and because Benjamin was not born until she died, there is no stone for him..."
For several generations, the tombstone was under a round dome, built on four stone columns; only later did they build walls between the columns, which were surrounded by a small domed room, by special permission of the Turkish ruler of Jerusalem, Mohammed Pasha. In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore received a permit to repair Rachel's Tomb, from the Turkish authorities, who recognized the place as the holy property of the Jews. At the entrance to the tomb a heavy iron door was built, and the key was entrusted to a Jewish sexton. The room surrounding the tombstone was renovated, and an additional room was built near the existing one. Thus Rachel's Tomb took on the shape which was familiar to us until a few years ago, before the wall was built around it.
The inscription on Rachel's Tomb to this day testifies to the assistance given by Montefiore for renovation during that period: "The house which was built by the great minister in Israel Sir Moses Montefiore and his wife, the daughter of kings, Dame Judith, may they deserve to see our righteous
Messiah." Twenty years later, a cistern was dug nearby, to allow the many visitors to the site to slake their thirst. After the Holocaust, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel put up a large menorah lamp, which was hung in front of the tombstone and which contained an "eternal light," which was dedicated,
as written around the menorah: "To the elevation of the souls of tens of thousands of Jewish martyrs, who were destroyed by the cursed evildoers, may their name be erased, during the years 1939-1945."
Charms, amulets and various prayers have been connected to Rachel's Tomb. To this day, their is a custom among women of circling the tomb with a red string. They believe that the string becomes sanctified because of its
contact with the tombstone, and later they tie it on their neck or hand, as a charm against the evil eye and illnesses. Sacks filled with earth collected from around Rachel's Tomb were sold abroad during earlier generations, and Jews used to ask before their deaths that this earth be scattered around their graves. Pictures of the tomb were printed on coins, postcards, books and stamps, and rabbis designated special prayers to be said at the tomb. Many poems were written about Rachel's Tomb, and for generations Jews made great efforts to buy land there.
During the first years of the Intifada, members of the Gush Etzion regional council managed to buy back ownership of about 10 dunams of Jewish-owned land near Rachel's Tomb, which had been taken over by Arabs. This is apparently land acquired by Nathan Strauss and Rabbi Zvi Kalischer during the last century. In Zev Vilnai's book "Holy Tombstones in the Land of Israel," these acquisitions are recorded. "Rachel's Tomb and the holiness of its environs," he wrote, "aroused among Jews already at the beginning of the Lovers of Zion movement, the desire to acquire property here and to settle on it. Through the intervention of Rabbi Zvi Kalischer, who was head of the Land of Israel Settlement committee, Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe managed to buy a plot of land near Rachel's Tomb."
After almost being handed over to the Palestinians about five years ago, the tomb compound and the access road are now included within the boundaries of all the final agreement maps drawn by Israeli cartographers of every political persuasion. Even on Barak's map the tomb remains within Israel, and will be annexed to it
(Translation courtesy of IMRA http://www.imra.org.il)
July 16, 2000:
The news media -- both the domestic Israeli and international -- have been misquoting important persons in Israel for political purposes.
These misquotes appear to be aimed at people of significance on the political right in an effort to give the impression that many in that camp are either approving of or giving in to the "reality" of the extensive concessions (capitulation?) by Israeli Prime Minister Barak at the present Camp David negotiations with the PLO. One example involved putting words into the mouths of the Chief Rabbis to the effect that Jewish Law would allow giving away the Land of Israel so long as the Arabs would allow free access of Jews to Jewish holy sites, such as Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs. You can view 2 short articles that appeared in Ha'aretz, Israel's most popular daily, where the Chief Rabbis had words put in their mouths by the press that were contrary to their positions. This appears along with the published "clarifications" by those Chief Rabbis. There is one other article where members of Israel's "settlement movement" also had words put in their mouths to give the impression that Jews living in Judea, Samaria & Gaza have deep divisions over basic issues that threaten their lives. Click here to go to the page with all these relevant articles which illustrate that this disturbing phenomenon is an ongoing one.
The Friends of Rachel's Tomb
Dale Baranowski, Director, P.O. Box 24, 9094200 Elazar, Israel
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