Rachel, the Biblical Matriarch who was the Patriarch Jacob's most beloved wife, was buried on the road between Bethlehem and Efrata and not in the Cave of the Patriarchs as were the other three Matriarchs. The Midrash states that this is so the Jews would pass her grave on their way to exile and she would entreat G-d to spare them. In Jeremiah 31, the prophet says: " A voice is heard in the heights, the sound of lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel is mourning for her children and refuses to be comforted for they are gone." And the prophet continues with G-d's promise: "Refrain from your crying and dry your eyes from their tears, because there is a reward for your efforts, your sons will return from the lands of their enemies, they will return to their own boundaries."
Rachel's tomb therefore symbolizes the pain of exile and the return from exile of the Jews. This fact and the tribulations of her life that included barrenness for many years and death in childbirth have led the Jewish people to identify with her and pour out their hearts at her grave.
The bridal gown of Navah Appelbaum, who was murdered with her father by terrorists the night before her wedding when they went out for a talk at a Jerusalem cafe, is used as part of the hangings in the women's section of the site.
The Egged bus service will be operating a special bus service to Rachel's Tomb in the outskirts of Bethlehem until Tuesday evening. The service is ferrying thousands of devout Jews to the Tomb for the Eleventh of Cheshvan, the yarzeit (Yiddish for “the anniversary of the passing”) of the Biblical Matriarch. Organizers estimated the number of visitors will be much larger than last year.
The special bus service began Monday and is scheduled to continue until 1:00 AM, then resume at 7:00 AM Tuesday. Buses can be boarded in Jerusalem at Binyanei Ha'Uma (the 15 bus toward Har Nof) and on Malchei Yisrael Street opposite the Rozhin Yeshiva. Round trip tickets cost NIS 8.50.
Security forces have decided to block entry of private cars to the Tomb. Cars cannot go past the Gilo checkpoint, where people can park their cars and board a shuttle bus service to the Tomb. The shuttle service will operate nonstop through the night until Tuesday evening.
Those leaving the Tomb need to first board a shuttle vehicle that will take them to the Gilo checkpoint, then board the bus they need. A round trip on the shuttle service costs 4.80 NIS for people who came by car to the checkpoint and is free of charge for those who come by bus.
Rachel's Tomb came under heavy enemy fire in the early 2000s, during the peak of Yasser Arafat's terror war against Israel. Security forces constructed a high wall around it and strictly limited visits. Increased visits to the Tomb have been allowed in the last few years as the general security atmosphere has improved and the grave is always crowded with busloads of visitors..