Tour Guide Israel – Rachel’s Tomb – Jerusalem / Bethlehem
קבר רחל אמנו
“And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.” — Genesis 35:19-20
In the New Testament – Mt 2:18 speaks of this place, reporting the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, with Rachel weeping for her children from her neighboring grave.
Rachel’s Tomb is the name given to a small religious building encased in concrete revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.The tomb is located within a Muslim cemetery in a walled enclave iside the outskirts of Bethlehem, some 400 meters south of Jerusalem’s municipal boundary. The burial place of the matriarch Rachel ןs mentioned in the Old Testament, and in Muslim literature.
The earliest non-biblical records describing this tomb as Rachel’s burial place date to about 1700 years ago.
The domed structure that containing the tomb dates from the Muslim Ottoman period and when Sir Moses Montefiore renovated the site in 1841 after obtaining the key for the Jewish community. He added an antechamber which included a mihrab (niche pointing the direction to Mecca) for Muslim prayer. The door has survived through the present, along with its original key and a lock with a special mechanism. The method for opening it was a guarded secret known only to the beadle of the site.
According to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, the tomb was to be part of the internationally administered zone of Jerusalem, but the area was occupied by Jordan, which prohibited Israelis from entering the area.
The site has come under the control of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs. Rachel’s tomb is the third holiest site in Judaism. Jews have made pilgrimage to the tomb since ancient times, and it has become one of the cornerstones of Jewish-Israeli identity.
The grave is separated into two areas – one for women and the other for men.
The site is open every day between 3AM until 10PM except for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
It should be noted that on the the yahrzeit (the anniversary) of Rachel our Matriarch’s death, literally tens of thousands of Jews flock to the Tomb and the place is packed day and night. Those who adore dense crowds and love traffic jams will be ecstatic there on that day. Normally, when her yahrzeit falls on a weekday, women will gather here in small groups to say Psalms in memory of our Matriarch.
Here is a short slide show of what you will see there.