Rachel's Tomb News Updates

© 1999-2013 The Friends of Rachel's Tomb, all rights reserved.

To jump directly to the News Updates portion,
skipping the Background information immediately below, click here.

And The War Continues...

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 signing of the "Oslo Accords" to ratify the "Peace Process" was done on the White House lawn under the auspices of former President Bill Clinton with great fanfare and a tremendous photo-op for those politicians.  At that time, many regarded this signing as if it would usher in a new secular era, a secular-messianic era of peace and good-will between the Children of Israel and the Children of Ishmael.  The secular, politically liberal, and in Israel the anti-religious, took boastful credit for the monumental work of burying the hatchet between Jews and Arabs.  In Israel the political Left proudly proclaimed the triumph of their principles and convictions that if Israel would simply give the Arabs what they wanted, land sufficient for a Palestinian state, then peace would be the result.  In the early 1990s there was a heady belief that peace was to finally come between these two nations.  So delirious were those that had faith in the sincerity of the Arabs and the notion of exchanging "Land for Peace" that the Israeli political Left proudly proclaimed the triumph of secularism, and that this was an example of how their non-religious values & orientation would bring out the best in humankind.

Unfortunately, all that was reversed when the Arabs unleashed a deadly wave of violence in November 2000.  Their excuse for this was that they were miffed because PM Ariel Sharon dared set foot on their turf -- the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest religious site where two of our Temples stood. Their violence had increased substantially and since that time the bubble has broken for most of Israel's faithful secular-messianics.

Earlier, former PM Ehud Barak put forth breathtaking offers of land-in-exchange-for-peace to Arafat  but all were rebuffed as he wanted more and more and more.  No offer was good enough for Arafat and, like a spoiled child with the power of a mass murderer behind him, he promised to unleash a wave of deadly violence on the Jewish people if he didn't get his every desire.  True to his word, this master of terrorism, the man whose claim to infamy has been by murdering Jews, activated his well trained legions of terrorists. Despite pleas from a small number of international leaders he refused to make any serious effort to call off his army to stop mauling the Jewish people.  Arafat pulled a fast one as he gave orders to halt attacks against Jews in the international media in English, but at the same time he called for increased terror attacks on Jews in Arabic in his own media outlets to his own people.  The media in the west his pronouncements in English and ignored his contradictory position in Arabic.  So with every attack in Israel more and more of the secular-messianic-devotees are abandoning their faith in the "Peace Process" and many of them admit they had been duped and deluded.  Terrorist actions against civilian Jews continue and between November 2000 and July 2002, mass homocide/suicide bombers and various other attacks have slain over 650 Jews in Israel. 

Despite daily terrorist actions against Jewish civilians in Israel the government and maintained a policy of "restraint" and for the most part refused to raise a hand to fight back. The Israeli government did something very unJewish, turned the other cheek and allowed these murderers to have their lethal way with Israeli civilians, all to appease what remains the staunchest of those secular-messianics as well as not disturb the commercial relationships that the US has with the Arab/Muslim world.  Some here in Israel have been saying that  PM Ariel Sharon has had no choice politically. They explain that if he would have  frontally attacked Arafat and his PLO in the early days of his prime ministership the political Left in Israel would have kicked him out of the office and then they would have given away the Land of Israel to the Arabs for empty promises -- and then the bloodshed that would have resulted from that would have been far greater than what we've experienced so far.

In any case, the numbers of dead have mounted to the point that even those politicians in Israel who still have unswerving faith in their "Peace Process" have allowed Ariel Sharon to call up the Israeli army reserves in the spring of 2002 to attack the centers of terrorism, to trash their training bases, destroy their explosives factories and hunt down terrorists known to Israeli intellengence.  They almost succeeded in crushing Arafat's terrorist infrastructure -- until the Israeli politicians on the Left couldn't bear to see Arab terrorists be given their due, and so they pressured PM Sharon to pull out.  The highest echelons of the Israeli Defense Forces then stated publicly that the job was far from over and to pull out would only mean a resurgence of terrorism.  Well, the Left ignored these words, pulled the army out of PLO-land, and the terrorism returned in full force with scores more of Jews dead, maimed and psychologically traumatized for the rest of their lives.

About the beginning of July, 2002, the IDF was sent back into the territories that Arafat & Co. holds. I personally witnessed columns of armored personnel carriers heading toward Bethlehem in order to take control, once again, the areas where terrorists are trained and outfitted for mass-murder.   In the few weeks since the return of our army things have quieted down substantially. Now we have a few Jews murdered each week rather than a score each day.  It is an improvement, but the Arabs and their mentality will persist and terrorism will return so long as the heart of the Arab-on-the-street supports the calls of their leaders to terrorism and annihilation of Jews. 

Changing the mentality of the Arab people after centuries of intolerance and hate toward Jews is not likely to happen.  The local Arabs have fostered a culture that praises the mass-murder of Jews and they continue to teach their children to regard the annihilation of Jews as the highest aspiration, and encourage them to become kamikazes. There is a very strong possibility that the only means that State of Israel can defend herself of thousands of such morally repugnant people is to expel every Arab that has ever raised a finger or voiced a word hostile to the Children of Israel.  For even  if hostilities stop,  Jews will live next to an Arab culture that continues to promote mass-death to Jews, and certainly no one can be expected to live with neighbors of that caliber.

As far as Rachel's Tomb goes, so long as the IDF keeps control of Bethlehem her grave is safe. But politicians, especially those remnants on the secular-messianic-Left, still have great influence in the affairs of the State of Israel, and they appear to fall back into their old ways and mentality.  So new threats will always on the horizon until the government gives the word and for the IDF to retake Bethlehem forever.  Until that time, Rachel's Tomb will be at risk.

The latest news follows the next frame...

"Be alert and treat Joseph's Tomb and Rachel's Tomb as parcels of  Palestinian land which must be liberated, and treat Joseph and Rachel as two people who died, like anyone else." 

This is an excerpt from an article in the official PA newspaper al-Hayat  al-Jadeeda, December 1, 1997, concerning Jewish holy sites in Shechem and Bethlehem.

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.



The Security Cabinet approved Prime Minister Sharon's "Jerusalem envelope 
plan," including his recommendation to incorporate the tomb of Rachel the 
Matriarch within the capital's jurisdiction. As a result, the holy site 
will be on the inside of the new security fence, which is scheduled to be 
erected in the upcoming months. In addition Sharon announced that a new 
road will be paved in order to allow easy access to the tomb.

Arutz Sheva News Service
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2002 / Tishrei 6, 5763
(Arutz Sheva has a free service whereby they send out one e-mail a day with the latest news.
To subscribe, send an e-mail to the address below and
leave the Subject and Body sections of this e-mail blank.

(Ahhh!  But what do the Arabs have to say about this development....?)

IMRA: Palestinian Official Sets Stage
to Bar Jewish Prayer at Rachel's Tomb by Terming it "Muslim Shrine"

[IMRA:  In the article below, Yasser Arafat's appointed  "Mufti of Jerusalem
and the Holy Land",  Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, asserts that Rachel's Tomb is a
"Muslim shrine" - a mosque.  It should be noted that the position of Moslem
authorities in the region (including Sabri) is that while infidels (Jews and
Christians and others) can visit mosques, that cannot pray inside mosques.
This is why Jewish prayer would be barred at the Cave of the Patriarchs
("Ibrahim Mosque") in Hebron if the area was under Palestinian control.
Sabri's statement gives Rachel's Tomb the same "no infidel prayer" status.]

Mufti claims ownership of "Rachel's Tomb"
By Bassem Shehada

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.

"This is unacceptable and a violation of our religious rights," said Sabri and stated that Israel's strength enabled it to unilaterally carry through decisions.  "This mindset of using force and continuing the occupation will never help achieve a durable and lasting peace in the region," he added.

 Additionally Israel's discrimination policy against the Palestinians, the indigenous people, in every aspect of their lives could be seen clearly through the annexation, he said.  "We can't force the Israeli army to cease from carrying out this decision.  However we will continue to cling to our historic and religious rights over all Muslim and Christian sites and shrines in Palestine," he added.

Bethlehem mayor Hanna Nasser told the TJT, "We don't know what the exact Israeli plan is and how much Palestinian land will be expropriated and annexed, but I can tell you it's a very serious and dangerous decision,".

Under the Oslo Accords, signed between the PLO and Israel on September 13, 1993, Jews can freely access the site for holding their religious rituals, the mayor confirmed. Since the outbreak of the Intifada two years ago, Israel has increased its security presence around the site and erected a three-meter wall that has turned the place into a fortress.

Nasser confirmed that Israel has turned the mosque into a military stronghold and prevented Palestinians from reaching the site under any circumstance. Israel states that if negotiations are to take place again, this area has to be open to discussion, stressing that the move was temporary and should not be viewed as unilateral. However Israeli officials
have admitted that Palestinian land would be expropriated in the meantime.

According to Nasser, "The plan is part of Israel's plan to separate the West Bank from Jerusalem, including Arab East Jerusalem, which it considers part of its indivisible capital." The PNA for its part denounced what it saw as a full-fledged annexation. Saeb Erekat, Minister of Local Government has sent a number of letters urging world leaders to intervene and force Israel to cancel its annexation of the tomb.

Erekat confirmed, "The 1995 deal prevented Israel from carrying out any geographic or demographic changes to the site," adding that the annexation of this site to Israel would be a flagrant violation of the signed peace agreements.

Under a plan backed Wednesday by the Israeli security cabinet, the holy site will be turned into a closed compound and included within the security perimeter being erected between Jerusalem and the West Bank.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
(IMRA has a free service whereby they send out e-mails with the latest news analysis.
For a free subscription, send an e-mail to the address below and
leave the Subject and Body sections of this e-mail blank.


J'lem Mayor Olmert Presses For Security Fence Around Rachel's Tomb

By Dale Baranowski, Webmaster

12 July 2002: The latest plan put forth by the government for insuring the security for Israeli Jews has been to erect a 350 kilometer long fence along the entire Green Line, the pre-1967 armistice lines, erroneously known as the "West Bank", with the hope that it will prevent the ingress of Arab terrorists into the cities and towns of Israel.

One difficulty with this plan is that this Green Line runs about 200 meters away from Rachel's Tomb and at this time the government has no plans to include the Tomb within the safety of the fence. This is despite the fact that Rachel's Tomb is the Jewish people's third most-improtant religious site, while not at all revered by the Muslims.  Mayor Ehud Olmert has been pressuring commanders in the IDF to include the Tomb within the fence and such is the essence of the disagreement.

Olmert was insenced at what he called "a terrible plan" not to include Rachel's Tomb.  He said that establishing the fence north of the tomb cuts it off from the Jerusalem Municipality. This plan is especially unwise,  because the tomb already falls under Israeli jurisdiction and is undisputed in its religious importance to Jews only. Olmert fears that the fence could become a de-facto border which would permanently cutting off Israel from the tomb if ever final-status agreements are negotiated.

In addition, Rachel's Tomb is the third most important religious Jewish site.  Even under these wartime conditions, tens of thousands make pilgrimages there to pray for the safety of the State of Israel and of paramount importance is the safety of the worshipers who arrive at the tomb twice a day in armored buses. 

Where the fence is to encircle Jerusalem it is expected to be little more than coils of barbed wire, sometimes inserted in ditches about three meters wide that stretch from the Har Homa neighborhood east to Gilo. This is in contrast to sections of the same fence which comprises an electronic fence, obstacles and a patrol road on both sides, yet the Jerusalem fence will be of simpler construction.

But to include Rachel's Tomb within the fence, OC Central Command Brig.-Gen. Yitzhak Eitan said that about 30 to 40 Palestinian homes some with historical significance would have to be demolished. Owing to the factors involved, a Jewish religious site located in a populated Palestinian area just north of Bethlehem, this could prove a public relations disaster for Israel, a Defense Ministry source said. 

Yet the big objection from the Israeli Defense Ministry is that they fear a public relations disaster as they claim that Arab houses will have to be torn down to allow the fence to include the Tomb. The Defense Ministry has claimed that this matter is is "incredibly sensitive" and they fear provoking an international outcry. It should be noted that the leadership in these government ministries often think and act as if Israel is extremely handicapped when it comes to foreign relations and that Israel must certainly give in to international opinion, even at the cost of Jewish lives and property.

Yet Mayor Olmert questioned the logic of Eitan's warning that up to 40 houses would have to be leveled. The Mayor said that while a few buildings might need "to be destroyed to facilitate security, parking and transportation arrangements," but it would not require the flattening of 40 homes.

The Religious Affairs Ministry has considered the possibility of building a tunnel from within the fence to Rachel's Tomb, thus avoiding the issue of the destruction of Arab buildings. However, no estimate concerning the cost of such an enterprise has been assessed.

Ultimately the decision of whether to include Rachel's Tomb will be Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's and will likely be made after the cabinet discusses this issue on Wednesday, 17 July 2002.

Jerusalem, January 20, 2002

Tu B'Shvat in Kever Rachel

On Monday, Tu B'Shvat (28/1/02) there will be a Tu B'Shvat party in Kever Rachel at 17:30.

The program will include music and a lecture in Hebrew by Rabbi Moshe Levinger of Hebron.

Bus at 17:00 from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. The bus will also stop at the Beit Lechem-Gilo intersection to pick up people waiting there at approximately 17:15.

As always, your presence is important and makes a difference!

Reminder: Buses to Kever Rachel daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. from the Central Bus Station, and a shuttle every half hour from the Beit Lechem-Gilo intersection between the hours of 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.



Chanukah at Kever Rachel

Buses to Kever Rachel every day of Chanukah from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, bus #163, every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. In addition, there will be shuttle buses between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m at the Bethlehem-Gilo intersection. (On Friday, transportation until 11 a.m.)

Candle lighting every night of Chanukah at Kever Rachel.

As always, your presence makes a big difference!

For more information: Shelli Karzen 972-2-996-1756

(Posted 20 Kislev 5762, 6 December 2001)
Arutz Sheva News Service
Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001 / Cheshvan 11, 5762

Thousands of worshipers, beginning last night, continued to make their crowded way to the site of Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem today.  They came to commemorate the 3,555th yahrtzeit of the Matriarch Rachel, as well as to show support for the site, which many feel is still in danger of being conquered by the Palestinian Authority.  For many months, access to Rachel's Tomb was only by thrice-daily private buses in the morning hours; three public buses now go to the site each weekday, at 9 AM, 1 PM, and 5 PM.

Arutz-7's Effie Meir, reporting from the shrine, said, "Busloads have been arriving all day, despite the shooting of the past few days not far from here.  One visitor told me, 'I haven't been here at Rachel's Tomb since the beginning of the fighting, and I am truly moved to see so many Jews here, realizing that only prayer will save usÖ'"  In addition to the some 100 people, mostly women, who visit the site each weekday, a small Kollel of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav Kook, established with the help of former MK Chanan Porat, operates in Kever Rachel.

Arutz-7's David Gilbert was also at Rachel's Tomb today.  Hear his report:




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.

Shelli Karzen
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, Webmaster

20 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.


Public transportation to Rachel's Tomb is still functioning!

One bus a day leaves from the New Central Bus Station at 9 AM, and returns a short while later.  However, the Eishet Chayil and Yesh Sachar Lef'ulotech Foundations subsidize round-trip rides on armored buses six times a day from the Gilo intersection between 9 and 11:30 AM.  For information, call (+972-2) 643-2165.  In addition, a Breslover organization called Nachalei Artzeinu runs a low-cost trip every night at midnight, leaving from Geulah to the tombs of Rachel, Jesse, and Ruth, as well as the Machpelah Cave contact: (+972-2) 627-4748.

Arutz Sheva News Service

Israeli Government sponsors 
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

NEW YORK (May 29) - Jews fabricated the existence of holy sites in the West Bank after the Six Day War, said Hebrew University Prof. Moshe Maoz to New York Jewish leaders on Friday during a visit that was sponsored by the Israeli government.

"We invent all kinds of tombs" in Palestinian-populated areas, said Maoz at a meeting with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, citing Joseph's Tomb, located in Nablus, which was destroyed by Palestinian rioters and rebuilt as a mosque in October 2000.

Maoz added that world Jewry has overreacted to the desecration of the tomb, while failing to note that groups of all faiths, including the Moslem Public Affairs Council in the US, recognized the site as being holy to Jews and condemned its destruction.

"Sometimes I think Judaism is paganism," said Maoz, referring to holy sites in general. "We sanctify stones and tombs instead of spirit."

Maoz's visit to the US was sponsored by the Israeli consulate's office of academic affairs, which brought him over to discuss prospects for peace and coexistence in the Middle East.

Following Maoz's speech, a consulate spokesman emphasized that "speakers we bring over do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Israeli government or the office of academic affairs in the US."


IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
Website: www.imra.org.il


More on Kever Rachel

 Resent-Date:  Tue, 8 May 2001 08:44:47 -0400
 Resent-From:  list8@womeningreen.org
 Date: Tue, 08 May 2001 15:16:36 +0200
 From:  Women In Green <wfit2@womeningreen.org>

 To: list8@womeningreen.org
Jerusalem, May 8, 2001

Kol Hakavod to all of you who came out today and went to Rachel's Tomb.  The busses were full, despite yesterday's shooting incident.

We encourage all of you to do your utmost to visit Kever Rachel 
as often as possible. Each and every person's presence is crucial 
and makes a difference. Let the whole world know that Am Yisrael has every intention of staying in Kever Rachel and in all of Israel 

Shuttle busses to Kever Rachel leave from the Bethlehem - Gilo 
intersection  at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 am every morning. 
Info: 02-9961-756

Kol Hakavod to the ESHET CHAYIL FOUNDATION which 
generously funds all of the bulletproof busses to Kever Rachel.

        Nadia Matar


P.O.B. 7352, JERUSALEM  91072 Israel
Tel.  02-624-9887    Fax: 02-624-5380 


Subject:  Kever Rachel - Urgent!
 Resent-Date:  Mon, 7 May 2001 10:22:44 -0400
 Resent-From:  list8@womeningreen.org
 Date: Mon, 07 May 2001 16:48:20 +0200
 From: Women In Green <wfit2@womeningreen.org>
 To: list8@womeningreen.org

Jerusalem, May 7, 2001

The committee for Kever Rachel just called me.  (Monday May 7th). Apparently there was shooting on Kever Rachel earlier on and the people inside were stuck for 3 hours because it was too dangerous to leave the place. When the shooting stopped, the IDF took them back to Jerusalem.

Even though there was no danger to the worshippers (Kever Rachel is the best fortified place in the area) the Committee is very worried that tomorrow people might be afraid to come; SO...It is very important for us to come DAVKA, despite it all, tomorrow, Tuesday,May 8th and show the army and the world that we will not abandon Kever Rachel. To be on the safe side, pack an extra sandwich and bring somebody you have not spoken to in a while. :-)

There are restrooms and fresh water at the site.

Buses are supposed to be at the Gilo intersection at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 am.

Nadia Matar

PS Pass on this message to your friends in Jerusalem, Beit 
Shemesh etc...

The Committee for Rachel's Tomb: Shelly Karzen 02-996-1756 
or 053-321-486

P.O.B. 7352, JERUSALEM, 91072 Israel
Tel.  02-624-9887 
Fax: 02-624-5380 

23 Nisan 5761, April 16, 2001
IDF Launched Defense Of Rachel's Tomb & Gilo Neighborhood
of Jerusalem With Tank Cannon

By Dale BaranowskiWebmaster: 


Forthe third straight night the heavy thud of exploding tank  shells reverberated throughout the area as the Israel Defense Forces pounded PLO machine gun positions in Bethlehem and the adjacent town of Bet Jalla.  The IDF responded to Arab machine gun fire at Rachel's Tomb and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.  This latest bombardment was taken after months of of slowly intensifying PLO attacks and have evolved into pitched battles around Judaism's 3rd most important religious site. 
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.

Residents of the Etzion Bloc of communities, located south of Bethlehem in the Judean Heights,  noticed that the IDF response was much more intense this time.  Those who stood outside witnessed white flashes when the shells exploded, and for the first time felt the vibration of  shells as they landed 4 kilometers away.  Their houses trembled with each explosion even though the shells fell at that distance. Since the houses there are made of concrete construction  when the walls shook for the first time it indicated a much higher level of ferocity in response to Arab fire.   Despite anxieties that this war is reaching new levels, many residents took this latest action as a good sign that the Israeli government has given the army much greater latitude in defending Jewish lives. 

"Everytime I drive into Jerusalem along the main highway below Bet Jalla I have this queesey feeling that some Arab sniper has me in his sights," one Elazar resident in he  Etzion Bloc said while watching from a hilltop. "I don't like war but hopefully the Arabs will get the hint from this bombardment and stop shooting at us."

Tent Camp Protest: 
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
tent camp is populated 24 hours a day, including Shabbat.  Join the inhabitants for Seudah Shlishit on Shabbat or for Melaveh Malkah after Shabbat.

For the full story click here .

91072 Israel
Tel.  02-624-9887
Fax: 02-624-5380

Rachel's Tomb Open Again 
On Fridays
Jerusalem, December 28, 2000
Dear Friends,

We have just been informed that Kever Rachel is once again open on Fridays -- the first Friday in many weeks.

As during the rest of the week (except for Shabbat, of course) there will be a shuttle bus from the Gilo-Bethlehem junction between 9:00 and 11:00 AM.

It is important that many people visit Kever Rachel tomorrow (and the other five days of the week)in order to keep the bus service running.

Shabbat Shalom and Hanukkah Sameach,

Nadia and Ruth Matar


91072 Israel
Tel.  02-624-9887 
Fax: 02-624-5380 


Transportation To & From
Rachel's Tomb...

Starting Sunday, 21 Cheshvan, 19 November 2000, a free bus will be leaving for Kever Rachel every morning at 9:30 from Rechov Yonah in Geulah. Approximate time of return is 11:15. In addition to the bus from Geulah, shuttle buses to Kever Rachel leave from the Gilo Beit Lechem junction at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. daily.

It is of utmost importance to visit Kever Rachel. The army literally counts every person who comes in, to see whether enough people  have come to "justify" opening the site. This time, your presence really counts!

November 30, 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."

She then cited an article from the Jerusalem Post according to which Maj.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz said that he would consider permitting larger crowds to visit Rachel's
Tomb. Mofaz was responding to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is in charge of the holy sites for the Religious Affairs Ministry. "Mofaz reportedly told Rabinovitch that he would investigate the possibility of lengthening the hours of worship and increasing the number of buses permitted to enter," the paper said.

Nadia Matar cautioned that, despite the recent successes, the struggle for Jewish control over the holy site is not over. "On the contrary. The only way we will succeed in extending the hours of opening and increase the number of buses is by bringing even more people."

91072 Israel
Tel.  02-624-9887
Fax: 02-624-5380
IDF troops repel attempt 
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.

Our soldiers were engaged in a gun battle over a period of several hours during which helicopter gunships fired at least two air-to-surface rockets. There were no reports of IDF casualties.

The enemy forces did manage to come within tens of meters of the holy site
during the offensive. 

To subscribe to the BreakingNews-Israel list,
send a blank email message to 44828-subscribe@listbot.com

Jeusalem Post wrote...

Lt.-Col. Kassam Hino, deputy commander of the Gush Etzion district, said on Channel 2 yesterday (Dec 4, 2000) that Sunday night's attacks in the Bethlehem area were carried out by Tanzim activists and Palestinian security officials acting on orders from the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinians claim the shooting at Rachel's Tomb was sparked by a "massacre" carried out by soldiers and settlers in the village of Husan the previous night. 

They (claimed that) Israelis entered the village and began shooting at locals near the village's mosque at the end of the Ramadan fast on Sunday evening, in retaliation for the throwing of firebombs and stones at Israeli vehicles passing the village earlier in the day. During the clashes that followed, 25 Palestinians were wounded, Palestinian sources said. Five of the wounded are in critical condition, according to Palestinian sources. 

PA officials and eyewitnesses (claimed that) settlers entered the village in a van and opened fire at the mosque. The soldiers opened fire at the Palestinians after they started to throw stones at the settlers and soldiers in response to the shooting, a PA source said. 

A statement issued by the IDF Spokesman  denied the Palestinian report, saying that the incident was sparked by the attempt by a 14-year-old boy to snatch the weapon of a soldier in an army jeep patrolling the village. The soldier fired at the boy's legs, after which locals threw stones and firebombs at the soldiers on  the Husan bypass road. An Israeli woman was lightly wounded by stones thrown at her vehicle. The IDF Spokesman added that soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas to disperse the Palestinian mob, and also fired live ammunition at the leaders of the violence. It insisted, though, that none of the shooting took place from inside the village. 

15 November  2000: 
Details of Transportation 
to Rachel's Tomb!
Women In Green Encourages Visits!
Jerusalem, November 15, 2000
For 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!

Nadia Matar

Tel.  02-624-9887
Fax: 02-624-5380

Critically wounded IDF soldier 
dies of injuries

13 November 2000

The 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: 


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.


 Voice 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 
Subscribe (free): Arutz-7  http://subscribe.a7.org/subscribe.asp">Arutz-7</a
For automated response about Arutz-7: mailto:info@IsraelNationalNews.com

  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
 To subscribe to the BreakingNews-Israel list, send a request to

 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)



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

Aaron Lerner 
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.

Wiener:  Yes.

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
INTERNET ADDRESS: imra@netvision.net.il
pager  03-6750750 subscriber 4811
Website: http://www.imra.org.il

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
despite agreement

(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
 To subscribe to the BreakingNews-Israel list, send a request to


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

Rachel's Tomb:  A Capsule History       A Photographic Tour Of Rachel's Tomb     Searching For Every Rachel

More Recent History    Rachel's Yahrzeit     News Update     Articles

Midnight At The Tomb     Prayers For Those In Need   DonationsLinksWebmaster

Return To Main Page