What Happened to Kever Rachel?
What Happened to Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb)?
In Parshat Vayishlach, we read about the death of Rachel, shortly after Yaakov and his family arrived back in the Land of Israel.
There is a controversy as to where Rachel is buried. Is she buried closer to the city of Efrat, South of Jerusalem (where her tomb is marked today), or is she buried closer to Ramah, North of Jerusalem?
The reason that it would make sense for her to be buried North of Jerusalem is because that is the territory of Binyamin (her son) as opposed to South of Jerusalem which is the territory of Yehuda (Leah's son).
In Parshat Vayishlach 35:7, it states: "Rachel died and was buried on the way to Efrat which is Beit Lechem."
The prophecy of Yirmiyahu 31 states: "A voice will be heard in Ramah- wailing, bitter, weeping- Rachel weeps for her children..." which would lead us to believe that she is buried closer to Ramah.
In any case, the spot that we have traditionally marked as Rachel's tomb in Beit Lechem (whether it is her exact burial place or not) has become a holy site since we have been praying there for thousands of years and therefore it has a level of holiness.
A quote about the Modern Kever Rachel from The Committee For Rachel's Tomb:
The exterior of the Tomb was once a humble, quaint and homey religious site but the situation required that it be transformed into a fortress. The new Rachel's Tomb building is built to withstand the ravages of war, both to protect the tomb as well as those within should hostilities break out. Besides the guard towers there are many small windows that are designed to enable our soldiers to shoot out in the event of a siege. These windows allow a myriad of our soldiers to actively defend the tomb while being safely protected by the walls should this ever come to pass, God forbid! Fortunately, the area around the Tomb remains calm.
Early winter of 2000, the area became much more secure and this was mostly because of the people who have been demanding to the Israeli government to be able to visit our holy site. The reason for this is quite simple. Previously ex Prime Minister Barak had been unwilling to unleash even a tiny portion of the power that the Israeli Defense Forces are capable of to defend the Tomb and as a result he had let the Arabs attack our Matriarch's resting place with impunity and repeatedly.
Back in November 2000, the government had agreed to allow Jews to visit the site, under heavy security, so the site had become far safer because the visitors must be protected.
By 2008 the Israeli government under former PM Ehud Olmert established a Security Fence to cordon-off certain areas of the Palestinian Authority to prevent the ingress of Arab terrorists, especially genocide-bombers, into I the interior of Israel and her major cities. Since Rachel's Tomb was in the middle of Bethlehem that was abandoned by previous governments there was some doubt that Olmert's government would keep Rachel's Tomb as everything depended on the route of the Security Fence. One plan was to leave Rachel's Tomb outside the Security Fence and simply abandon it to the Palestinian Authority. With every hint by government officials and leftist Keneset Members that Rachel's Tomb might be abandoned a hew and cry arose from the Israeli public - nonreligious and religious alike - that opposed this idea. To gauge the public sentiment the government wanted the soldiers stationed at Rachel's Tomb to count the number of visitors that entered the Tomb and send the results to the committee that decided the route of the Security Fence. Mostly from the tallies of the numbers of those who went to visit the Tomb the government decided to route the Security Fence around Rachel's Tomb so that the Tomb resides in a compound surrounded with high concrete walls and guard towers where IDF soldiers protect those who go to visit the Tomb. At that time visitors were only permitted to enter the Tomb compound in armored vehicles.
In early 2009, the security situation improved to the point that visitors may enter the Tomb compound in ordinary vehicles as the restriction that required armored vehicles had been lifted.
The fact is that everyone who visits the Tomb forces the government to take firm action to protect the grave of Rachel. If we continue to demand that Rachel's Tomb remain in Jewish hands - and actually go to visit our 3rd most important holy place - we will insure that it will remain in our hands rather than be surrendered to the Palestinian Authority in the "peace process" or simply abandoned in war.
Below: The traditional picture of Kever Rachel
Photo: The classic picture of Kever Rachel
My Visit to Kever Rachel 20 years ago and Moshe and Yehuda at Kever Rachel last year.
Photo: Kever Rachel 20 years ago!Photo: Kever Rachel as it looks in 2012
May we all merit to visit Kever Rachel as often as possible!
Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim!
Sharona Margolin Halickman