Skip to comments.Routing for Rahel [Rachel's Tomb]
Posted on 02/12/2005 5:22:05 PM PST by Alouette
We've succeeded in saving Rahel's Tomb," says Kever Rahel Fund founder and director Miriam Adani.
Adani was responding to the decision by the High Court of Justice last week to dismiss petitions by 18 local Palestinians, together with the Bethlehem and Beit Jala municipalities, against construction of a bypass road leading to the compound.
The new route will annex Rahel's Tomb to Jerusalem's municipal boundaries and place it within a segment of the planned "envelope" barrier being constructed along the city's southern perimeter.
Adani, who established the Kever Rahel fund in 1999, reveals that for her and her supporters, the Court's decision is also the first step towards the establishment of a Jewish community around the Rahel's Tomb compound. In the past few years, she claims, several houses in this area have been purchased from their Arab owners, who have since left the area and perhaps the country. She adamantly declined to give any details regarding these deals.
Israel Defense Force troops are already using one of the houses connected to the compound as a billet. Adani hopes that civilians will move in "soon," once the Chief of the IDF Central Command gives the go-ahead and various "security concerns" are dealt with.
She added that "several hundred apartments" were due to be constructed on the site, but that most of the civilians will arrive only after the barrier is completed.
Tempering her initial excitement about the decision over the planned housing development, however, Adani says that "As long as the IDF Central Command views the issue as hurting peace or as a provocation I don't believe he'll authorize it."
The IDF Spokesman's office did not respond to requests for information on its meetings with Adani and her organization or their position regarding these issues.
Adani does not believe that Jews will occupy the houses in the area by force or take steps that might endanger the existing Jewish presence.
"We are strongly guided by the lesson of our Matriarch Rahel: everything done at Rahel's Tomb will be done in agreement, with understanding and towards the unity of Israel, and without one iota of controversy."
She speaks of the "unity of Israel," but what about the Palestinians who live in the area? Adani seems unfazed that nearby Bethlehem and its environs are under full Palestinian Authority control.
"In any case, a Jewish presence among the Palestinians will be in their [the Palestinians'] best interests," she contends. Emphasizing each word by softly banging on the table, Adani adds, "Wherever there is a Jewish presence, there's more security, more army, more order."
But, when pressed if the Palestinians would, in the final analysis, accept any enlarged Jewish presence in the area, Adani shot back with the Biblical passage, "Esau hates Jacob."
In its decision, the court dismissed the petitioners' contention that the route would limit their freedom of movement, responding that the route, which has already been changed several times in response to previous petitions, does not significantly harm the petitioners' rights. The justices also ruled that Jews are entitled to freedom of worship, and that the IDF is responsible for defending that freedom.
Adani, however, said that there is "something absurd" about the court's decision, even though it was in her group's favor, because a handful of Arab dwellings, located several hundred meters from the checkpoint at the current Jerusalem border, will remain. As a result, the proposed road will have to be routed around them.
"If we're talking about disengagement and evacuating thousands of Jews from their homes in order to reach an agreement with the Palestinians," she argues, "Why can't four [Palestinian] families also be moved and compensated?"
Attorney Arie Tussia-Cohen, who represented the Palestinians in this case, views the situation differently. Speaking to the media after the decision, he said: "Unfortunately, the High Court of Justice took into account only the narrowest aspect of the conflict, and not the wider aspects. The court did not internalize the situation that has been created, according to which the IDF is giving in to political pressures and changing the routes [of the passage to Rahel's Tomb] according to pressure groups. The court annexed Rahel's Tomb to the State of Israel, in violation of the Oslo Accords, which determined that the area would be under Palestinian, and not Israeli, control."
Tussia-Cohen continued to say: "I hope that there will be people who will say that, given the new spirit in our region, we will have to rediscuss the issue of the route, because it will be making enemies for us, instead of friends."
Adani contends that nearly 1,000,000 visitors come to Rahel's Tomb yearly and tens of thousands attend services that commemorate the date traditionally associated with the death of Rahel the Matriarch.
The implication of the court's decision is that Israel will also have to give up the old Jerusalem-Rahel's Tomb road, by which Jews have accessed the site since 1967. According to IDF plans, a checkpoint will be established at the intersection with the Jerusalem municipal border, some 900 meters north of the holy site, and the new road will be paved to the west, arriving at Rahel's Tomb from the back.
The court's decision came at a particularly sensitive point in Israel's diplomatic relations, since the United States and the rest of the international community have clearly requested that Israel refrain from "provocative gestures" in order to bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' first, shaky steps after the Sharm e-Sheikh summit. But Adani insisted that, "We have had excellent neighborly relations with the residents of Bethlehem. But do I believe in these good relations? Happy is the believer.
Adani's protege in running the Rachel's Tomb Fund operation, veteran immigrant from Queens, New York, Aviva Pinchuk, says that Rahel's tomb is a particularly significant site for Jewish women. "When the Intifada erupted, Jewish worshipers were cut off from reaching Rahel's Tomb for 41 days, due to the fighting and lack of security arrangements for visitors. Despite the difficulties, a stalwart group of 40 women residents of Hebron gathered together and walked past the barricades and up to the site, which was under IDF control," she recalls. "Astonished soldiers manning the site allowed the group access, later requiring them to acquire armored vehicles to allow safe passage."
Over the last four years, groups like Adani's have raised money, primarily abroad, to pay for the cost of running several daily buses to the site. The group also offers a dowry fund for brides, established in memory of Nava Applebaum, who was killed, along with her father, Dr. David Applebaum, and five others, in a suicide bombing at the Hillel Cafe in Jerusalem, on the eve of her wedding in September, 2003. Sections of Applebaum's wedding dress were later used for the ceremonial curtain in front of the Torah scroll enclosure at the site.
Recently, additional sections have been used to make a huppah, the traditional marriage canopy, which will be used in wedding ceremonies at Rahel's tomb.
"I grew up with that symbol of Kever Rahel," Pinchuk recalls. When she and her husband visited Israel as tourists for the first time in 1967, six months after the Six Day War, the two joined a bus tour to Rahel's Tomb with an American Jewish tour group on Christmas Eve.
To her dismay, people on the bus were saying, "'When are we going to get to the Mass? We want to get to Mass already,' in nearby Bethlehem, rather than visiting Rahel's tomb. "I was shocked. Here we were at Rahel's Tomb; this is what I grew up with, and I just wanted to stay and cry..."
"Rahel's Tomb always had a very special place in my heart, whenever I have something I want to pray for, it was [at] Kever Rahel," Pinchuk says.
(Dan Izenberg contributed to this article)
WARNING: This is a high volume ping list
Yes ! Good news
lol.. I am glad it was't about Rachel Corrie.
They should be staffed, and off-limits to those that have constantly tried to destroy them.. ( you know who I mean..)
Forgive me, but where is that in the text? Without my reaching into it, rather wasn't it Esau who met the trepidatious Jacob with all brotherly love?
That aside however, I agree with this move, and wonder with Drammach, "...if they would just pay as much attention to Joseph's tomb..."
In Genesis 33:4, the Torah tells us about a kiss: after thirty-four years in which Jacob had fled his brother's wrath, and in which Esau had never ceased plotting to kill him, Esau has a change of heart. Seeing Jacob approach, Esau runs to him, embraces him, and kisses him.
But the word vayishakeihu, "and he kissed him", has a line of dots above it, which is the Torah's way of telling us that this was not a normal kiss. What was abnormal about this kiss? The Midrash cites two interpretations. One is that the Torah is telling us that it was not a true kiss -- Esau was really trying to kill Jacob by biting his throat. The other interpretation is that Esau kissed Jacob with all his heart -- that's what was abnormal about the kiss, since "we know that it is a cardinal law of reality that Esau hates Jacob."
And if the "Roadmap to Peace" is followed, Jews and Christians will once again be banned from the lands "occupied" by the arabs ( palestinians ) ..
Any holy sites will be defiled, and if possible, destroyed, unless there is a muslim claim to their history..
Any evidence of Jewish / Christian claims to that history will be destroyed or "lost"..
We have the evidence at Joseph's tomb, the cemetaries at Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount/Soloman's stables.
Misnamed "Roadmap to Peace" - Roadmap to hell.
"If we would have razed the gravesite of one of the founders of Islam, billions of Muslims would have taken to the streets" -- Nathan Sharansky, about the desecration of Joseph Tomb.
The Oslo Accords put the site under Israeli jurisdiction, but on Oct. 7, 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered a unilateral retreat, based on a Palestinian agreement to protect the site.
But within hours, smoke was seen billowing from the tomb as a crowd burned Jewish prayer books and other articles. With pickaxes and hammers they began to tear apart the stone building. Two days later the dome of the tomb had been painted green and bulldozers were clearing the area.
"and kissed him": [the] Heb. [word 'kiss'] There are dots over the word [in the actual Torah Scroll]. There is controversy concerning this matter in a Baraitha of Sifrei (Behaalothecha 69). Some interpret the dots to mean that he did not kiss him wholeheartedly. Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai said: It is a well known tradition that Esau hated Jacob, but his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly. [from the explanation of Rashi]
Good Morning Thank you
As an 18-year-old college student, I had only begun to wade in the waters of Jewish observance, when I made my first visit to Israel in 1972. Coming with my Bnai Brith Youth background, I was ready to see a living Israel and gave little thought to the Torah side of the country. Still, once I had visited the Western Wall and did all the hikes and museums that were part of my summer tour, I felt drawn to Rachel's Tomb.
Why Rachel's burial spot and not Leah's, I really couldn't say. Perhaps it was the lithograph of Rachel's Tomb hanging on my grandmother's wall that I had grown up with. Maybe it was the Sunday school notion of poor Rachel, Jacob's beloved, who had her happiness sacrificed by wicked Lavan. Whatever the reason, I decided I would see her Tomb, so one day a friend and I took the bus to Bethlehem.
I don't know what I had expected from the visit, but it certainly wasn't what I found. My grandmother's picture had prepared me for the small, domed building surrounded by trees where Rachel's grave stood. I expected the tall, stone tomb covered with a velvet tapestry inside the building. What I did not expect at all, though, was all the elderly women gathered around the tomb.
Looking back, I wonder how old they really were, 40, 50, 60? From my youthful viewpoint they seemed ancient and all of them seemed to have come to Rachel full of heartache. Why else did each and every one of them pour out their hearts, voices full of sobs, faces full of tears, hands clutching handkerchiefs and prayer books?
My friend and I had entered the room gingerly, tiptoeing and quiet, not sure what to do with ourselves. What did one do at the burial spot of a holy person? Reciting Psalms was certainly not for us. We looked at the women as if for guidance, and finding none, we looked at each other. Suddenly, without warning, we both simultaneously burst into giggles. Both of us tried to swallow them, and if we had been alone, we probably could have succeeded. Every time we looked at each other, the laughter bubbled to the surface and escaped out of our mouths as if it controlled us.
Now it is hard to understand just exactly what struck us as funny. Growing up with a sentimental mother and a European father, tears were not uncommon in my house. We cried, believe me, we cried. We always took handkerchiefs to Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, going away to parties and graduations, to tear-jerking movies, and the like. Our tears, for the most part, were quiet, well-mannered tears. Sobs of prayer or despair were reserved for the privacy of our own home. I never heard anyone cry out loud while praying in a synagogue.
Here, at Rachel's Tomb, these women seemed totally devoid of inhibition. They were acting at her graveside the way I would behave only in my own room, on my bed, all alone.
These women had an entirely different culture and I guess it was the contrast that did us in. We did have enough manners to feel embarrassed and finally, we managed to pull each other aside. Collapsing on the stone bench, we gave way to hysterics, and although we received sympathetic glances from a bus load of tourists, the guard looked at us as if he was scandalized. Not wanting to offend anyone, we dragged each other out of the enclosure and to the bus stop across the road.
So ended my first visit to Rachel's Tomb. I returned not long afterwards to America, dove deeper into the waters of Judaism, and married. Fourteen years later, with five children, I made aliyah and settled in Shilo, where the biblical Tabernacle had once stood. For various reasons, I never managed to return to Rachel's Tomb until Passover 1992.
It had not been an easy winter. Like every year, we had our hands full with normal family crisis. What had made this year so hard was the intensification of the Intifada. Rocks and firebombs had become passe, and our Arab neighbors had begun using firearms against us. Five months earlier, a bus full of friends and neighbors was attacked, and Raquela Druke was murdered. Not only did I mourn her but I became terrorized. I struggled with my faith every time I or a loved one had to travel.
No longer could I casually load up my family and food into our van and enjoy a day's outing. Still, it was the middle of the Passover week and hope of springtime was in the air. All of us deserved a good time and I was determined that we would have one. Swallowing my fears, we made our way south to picnic, sightsee, and to visit the burial sites of our fathers and mothers. Rachel's Tomb was our first stop and I was eager to step inside. In spite of everything that had happened, I had much to be thankful for.
We emptied out of the car, groggy from the long, hot drive. My husband took the boys to the men's side of the Tomb, and I took the two girls. I entered Rachel's Tomb, my girls' hands in mine, and suddenly the tears started.
Just like the laughter 20 years earlier, I could not stop the tears. It was as if they controlled me.
"Why are you crying, Mommy?"
I could only shake my head at my 3-year-old's question. Had I tried to speak, the silent tears would have turned into heartrending sobs. Besides, what could I have answered? Was I crying for our biblical mother Rachel who had died in childbirth so many years ago? Were my tears for my neighbor, Raquela, who had left behind her seven children and, in my eyes, was a symbol of all Jewish women today? Or were my tears for myself as part of the Jewish people who were still waiting, after such a long time, for "the children to return to their borders"?
Unable to talk I squeezed my daughters' hands tighter. My tears continued to flow unchecked, and in my imagination I envisioned two college coeds, dressed in clothing of the 70s, staring at me and trying to control their laughter. Was I now so comfortable in a synagogue or holy site that I could let my private feelings show? How had the "me" I had been 20 years earlier changed so much?
Thankful for the metamorphosis I had undergone, I suddenly felt a sense of hope and healing that I had not felt in all the time since Raquela's murder. Surely if God had changed me from the giggling teenager I had been into the weeping mother I am, He could change the violent world that we live in to one of peace and redemption.
Ellen Katz-Silvers lives in the Israeli town of Shiloh. Her son studied in the yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb before it was destroyed by Palestinians; she prays that nothing similar ever befalls Rachel's Tomb.
And it heartens to know there are those in the Israeli government who take all our heritage seriously.