Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5761 - Noveber 8, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Kever Rochel Will Hopefully Be Open on Thursday
by Betzalel Kahn

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 Rochel.

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 `liberate.'

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 Tomb).

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 one.

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.


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