Though there has been no free access to the grave of Rochel
Imeinu since Rosh Hashana because of constant gun battles,
Prime Minister Barak has asked the army to allow mass
prayers there this Thursday, 11 Cheshvan, the
yahrtzeit of Mother Rochel.
Jews have not been permitted to pray beside Kever Rochel
since Rosh Hashana although soldiers continually guard the
kever, which is officially under complete Israeli
control, both security and political. A few have received a
special permits from the IDF and have been allowed to the
grave with special security measures.
Monday, riots continued at Kever Rochel, as the Palestinians
threw incendiary bottles and stones. The IDF fired back with
rubber bullets and tear gas.
OC Central Command Yitzhak Eitan approved the arrival of
large numbers of Jews to the kever on the day of
Rochel Imeinu's yahrtzeit.
Chief Rabbi Yisroel Mayer Lau and the rav of the sacred
places, Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz both made a special request to
Prime Minister Barak and the Deputy Security Minister to
allow prayers there on the yahrtzeit. In response,
Rav Rabinowitz was told that the Prime Minster instructed
the IDF to make every effort to enable prayer beside Kever
Sources in the Religious Affairs Ministry said that they
expect that Kever Rochel will not be open throughout the
entire day, but for various, unscheduled time periods in
which people will be transported there in armored busses.
These sources also said that it is possible that prayer may
not be allowed if it proves impossible to guarantee the
security of the mispalelim.
Palestinians are shooting at the Rachel's Tomb compound have
singled it out as the next Jewish site which they want to
Almost every night, shooting battles take place around the
tomb compound. The compound, which is only 480 meters away
from the edge of Jerusalem, as well as the road to it, are
defined as Area C (complete Israeli control).
Already last Yom Kippur the Palestinian Authority newspaper
Al Hayyat al Jedida published an article entitled:
"After the liberation of Joseph's Tomb -- Can we liberate
the Belal ibn Rabakh mosque? (the Arabic name for Rachel's
In sermons given in mosques, the mosque next to the tomb is
also referred to as "the next brick which must be removed
from the Jewish-Zionist edifice," after Joseph's Tomb.
After the Six-Day War, Rachel's Tomb was almost annexed to
Jerusalem and included within the border of the State of
Israel. It is said that Levi Eshkol, the prime minister in
1967, instructed his justice minister to include the tomb
within Jerusalem's new jurisdictional borders, and was angry
when he discovered that his instructions had been ignored.
The minister, however, considered the drawing of the borders
a security issue only, and as such he just relied on Defense
Minister Moshe Dayan who did not want to include Rachel's
Tomb within Jerusalem's boundaries.
Almost 30 years later, Rachel's Tomb was once again
forgotten in the early talks on implementing the Oslo
agreements. The Israeli negotiating team had already agreed
to include the tomb and its environs in the area of the city
of Bethlehem to be transferred to the complete control of
the Palestinian Authority. Only after the uproar raised by
the religious parties were the Israeli negotiators ordered
to take back the agreement. This change "cost" Israel other
concessions, which the Palestinians demanded in exchange,
but finally the tomb remained under Israeli control, with a
road hundreds of meters long separating it from the Gilo
barricade in the south of the city.
A Jewish tourist, Rabbi Petachia, who came to the country in
1180, described it in his day: "And on her tomb there are 11
stones, one for each tribe, and because Benjamin was not
born until she died, there is no stone for him . . . "
About two hundred years ago, the tombstone was under a round
dome standing on four stone columns. Walls were later built
between the columns, which were also surrounded by a small
domed room, by special permission of the Turkish ruler of
Jerusalem, Mohammed Pasha. In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore
received a permit from the Turkish authorities, who
recognized the place as the holy property of the Jews, to
repair Rachel's Tomb. At the entrance to the tomb a heavy
iron door was built, the room surrounding the tombstone was
renovated and an additional room was built near the existing
During the first years of the intifadah, members of
the Gush Etzion regional council managed to buy back
ownership of about 10 dunams of originally Jewish-owned land
near Rachel's Tomb, which had been taken over by Arabs. This
is apparently land acquired by Nathan Strauss and Rabbi Zvi
Kalischer during the last century.