As someone who was named after Israel’s biblical matriarch Rachel, I have always felt a very close attachment to Rachel’s Tomb and have yearned to visit the resting place of my wonderful ancestor. About a year ago, I made this dream a reality and went to see Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem on a tour organized by the Hebron Jewish Community with my husband. However, while at Rachel’s Tomb, I was saddened to see that the majestic countryside that once surrounded Rachel’s Tomb and that was vividly displayed in Jewish artwork was now covered with a Security Barrier that destroyed the scenery. The scene of a stone building with a dome on top and an ancient olive tree in front of it are no more.
Yet, when one reads recent headlines, one fully understands why there needs to be a gigantic security barrier surrounding Rachel’s Tomb, even if the ambiance is destroyed. Recently, a mob of some 50 Arabs has attacked Rachel’s Tomb, throwing 9 pipe bombs, 18 fire bombs, and rocks at Israeli security forces guarding our ancestors resting place. One of the Israeli soldiers was wounded by one of these Palestinian rocks.
Unfortunately, this was not the first and probably won’t be the last time that Palestinians attack Rachel’s Tomb. Indeed, during the Second Intifada, Rachel’s Tomb was under siege for 41 days. Around that period of time, Palestinian militants fired constantly at Rachel’s Tomb and Israeli soldiers died during these clashes. Since that time, periodically, Palestinians have rioted near Rachel’s Tomb. The Palestinians militants seek to overtake Rachel’s Tomb and transform this historic Jewish holy shrine into a mosque, by falsely claiming that the site is connected to Bilal, Muhammed’s Muezzin, despite the fact that for hundreds of years the Arabs of the Holy Land referred to the resting place of Rachel as Rachel’s Dome.
The Jewish connection to Rachel’s Tomb is historically undisputable. Rachel’s Tomb has been identified for the last 1,700 years as the grave of the Jewish matriarch Rachel. Despite contemporary Palestinian propaganda that seeks to detach Rachel’s Tomb from the Jewish Matriarch Rachel, there is an abundance of Christian, Jewish, and even Muslim literature that asserts that Rachel’s Tomb is the burial spot of the Jewish Matriarch Rachel. Many generations of Jews have made pilgrimages to Rachel’s Tomb in order to pray. Jewish women who struggle to get pregnant will often pray at Rachel’s Tomb for G-d’s help, since Rachel struggled to have children herself. Rachel’s Tomb has also appeared in countless Jewish books, paintings, photographs and art work.
According to Nadav Shagrai, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs who has studied the history of Rachel’s Tomb in depth, “For centuries, Rachel’s Tomb was considered only a Jewish holy place. The sixteenth-century Arab historian Mujir al-Din regarded Rachel’s Tomb as a Jewish holy place. Beginning in 1841, the keys to the place were deposited exclusively with Jewish caretakers who managed the site until it fell into Jordanian hands in 1948.”
Bilal, Mohammed’s Muezzin, is buried in Damascus or Badr, not Bethlehem. Nevertheless, the truth has never prevented the corrupt Palestinian leadership from fabricating history and trying to violently destroy the heritage of other religions. Indeed, the only periods in history where Muslims have controlled the site is when they utilized brute force and and until relatively recently, Rachel’s Tomb was a holy site for both Muslims and Jews for the same reason, it is the burial place of the Jewish matriarch Rachel.
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By Rachel Avraham