TOMB OF RACHEL
Rachel was the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She died during childbirth on the 11th of Cheshvan, 2198 (1560 BCE). The Bible records the event in Genesis 35:19-20:
"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."
Rachel was probably thirty-six years old. Jacob buried her by the roadside, and placed a stone monument over her grave. Many pilgrims came and and still come to visit on the anniversary of her death. Rachel's Tomb has always been a place of pilgrimage for Jews, especially Jewish women unable to give birth.
Rachel is considered the "eternal mother", caring for her children when they are in distress especially for barren or pregnant woman.
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.
Today many pilgrims travel to Israel and make this a routine stop. The flow of genuine pilgrims to the Tomb of Rachel is a daily occurrence.
Following is part of a prayer which may be recited when visiting her tomb:
Oh Merciful King! I have come to pray at the Tomb of Rachel our Matriarch. Let her good acts stand in my steed, especially her heartfelt prayers to You when she was barren which You answered. In her merit please answer my prayers and the prayers of my fellow Jews. Listen to what I utter before You, and fulfill my innermost needs.
Jacob buried Rachel on the roadside and not in Bethlehem so that she could come to the assistance of her children's children at the destruction of the first Temple. Then You hearkened and returned us after seventy years. But now, with a galus of over 1900 years since the destruction of the second Temple, we plead that You will again hearken to her prayers....
The Zohar (The Mystical Book of Splendor) says, “When will the Jewish people return from galus? At the time of the redemption, and then the Shechina (the presence of G-d) will rest on theTomb of Rachel”.
Rachel's tomb has equal status with Machpelah (the Tombs of the Patriarchs) as the oldest place of prayer. Pilgrims stopped by her tomb on their way to and from Jerusalem when they travelled to Hebron and Egypt hundreds of years before King Solomon built the Temple. In fact, pilgrims came regularly from as far away as Damascus and the Euphrates valley to pour their hearts out to G-d at Rachel Tomb and the Machpelah.
The Tomb of Rachel
The tomb site in Bethlehem consists of a rock with 11 stones upon it, one for each of the 11 sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth.
How to get there
The Tomb is situated next to Route 60, (3km north of Manger Square) leading to Hebron. It is adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Gilo at the northern entrance to Bethlehem. Although it stands within the built-up area of Bethlehem, the tomb is now enclosed within an enclave on the "Israeli" side of the West Bank barrier.
Visiting hours: Sun – Thurs 01:30 – 22:30, Friday 01:30 – Sunset