Tens of thousands of Jews prayed at Rachel’s Tomb (Kever Rachel) at Bethlehem Wednesday night and Thursday, 3,600 years after her death. Police barred private vehicles from the site, and special buses took people to and from the tomb. No unusual incidents or attempts at terrorist attacks were reported.
(Video broadcast by ShareLive)
Memorial candles at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, Israel
(Israel news photo: Hezki Ezra)
Women from all over Israel came to pray at Rachel's tomb
Tens of thousands arrived since the evening. Sign in Hebrew says "Rachel's Tomb"
The Bible states that Rachel, the mother of Joseph (Yosef) and Binyamin (Benjamin), was buried “en route to Efrata [Efrat]” after she gave birth to Yosef. It adds, "Jacob (Yaakov) set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day."
Organizers of the this year’s event called on Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora to recite special prayers for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage in Gaza for more than three years by Hamas and allied terrorists.
“For generations Rachel has prayed for her children to return home safely, and we hope that this year our prayers will be answered and Gilad will return home to his family,” said Rabbi Yosef Schwinger, Director of Israel’s Holy Sites Authority.
Special prayers also were said for the health of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who is in serious condition at a Jerusalem hospital.
The matriarch Rachel is remembered daily in prayers by travelers, based on the tradition that she cried for the Jews who passed her grave during the exile from Jerusalem to Babylonia.
During the Jordanian occupation of Judea (Yehudah) and Samaria (Shomron) from 1948 to 1967, Jews, as well as Christians, were forbidden to visit holy sites in Bethlehem and elsewhere. Following the Six Day War in 1967, Israel opened all holy sites to Arabs and Christians, as well as Jews.
Arabs, as part of a campaign to eradicate Jewish connections with holy sites, claim that the site is the location of a mosque that was built during the Arab conquest before the Middle Ages.
Video from Rachel's Tomb last night (Interviewees in Hebrew)