Bethlehem, Israel - Rachel's Tomb

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PC2876. Rachel's Tomb is a holy site of high significance to Judaism and is located in Northern Judea (Southern West Bank) just outside of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo at the northern entrance to Bethlehem along what was once the Biblical Bethlehem-Ephrath road. The town of Bethlehem had expanded north in recent years to enclose the surrounding area.

Tradition holds that it is the burial place of the Biblical Matriarch Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who died here giving birth to Benjamin. It is considered the third holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount and the Cave of the Machpelah (Genesis Rabbah 79:7). Over the years, Rachel's Tomb has been a place of pilgrimage for Jews, especially Jewish women unable to give birth. Jewish tradition teaches that Rachel weeps for her children and that when the Jews were taken into exile, she wept as they passed by her grave on the way to Babylonia. Believers in Kabbalah sometimes wrap red string around the tomb and then make it into bracelets that serve as talismans.

The actual "tomb" consists of a rock with eleven stones upon it, one for each of the eleven sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth. Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. (In the Middle East, domes were used for structural support in small buildings until modern times due to a lack of wood beams for roofs.)

The dome structure was eventually enclosed by Sir Moses Montefiore, who added a second room. In the 1990s, due to the deteriorating security situation, the original domed structure was fortified and enclosed inside a building with a hall from the entrance.

During the Jordanian period (1948-1967), Jews were forbidden to visit the Tomb. Recently, the site has been surrounded by a barrier to separate it from Bethlehem. Access is now restricted to pilgrims and tourists approaching from Israel. Rachel's Tomb has been known in Arabic as Qubbat Rakhil ("the Dome of Rachel"), although now some Palestinian sources claim that the Montefiore enclosure is in fact the mosque of Bilal Bin Rabbah.

Some sources claim that actual Rachel's Tomb is in Northern Jerusalem at a site called by local Arabs "the place of the sons of Israel" which is near present day A-Ram, the site of Biblical Ramah. The place is mentioned in the "Prophets" section of the Hebrew Bible as the site of Rachel's burial when King Saul visits the site, in I Samuel 10:2. Later Jewish sources take the site near Bethlehem as the real site. For this view of the burial site, see[1] and[2].

This product was added to our catalog on Monday 09 July, 2007.

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