An 11-year tradition is set to be marked next week with a gala three-day symposium next to Rachel's Tomb, at Beit Bnei Rachel – a house “filled with the spirit of our matriarch, Rachel Imeinu.”
"People have been coming to Rachel's Tomb and Beit Bnei Rachel weekly until recently, and now monthly for Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Hebrew month on the Jewish calendar),” explains Evelyn Haies, founder and president of the Rachel's Children Reclamation Foundation.
Haies, who founded and purchased the property for Beit Bnei Rachel, said Torah classes are still held at the site to honor the memory of Sara Blaustein, who was “murdered 'on the way.'” Sara Blaustein, 53, of Efrat, was killed in a drive-by shooting on the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion road on May 29, 2001. The expression is a reference to the Biblical matriarch Rachel, who also died while “on the way.”
Next week's events, said Haies, will further illuminate the memories of the Biblical matriarch as well as that of Blaustein, in whose memory the facility was created.
At 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 19, Rabbi Dr. Joseph C. Klausner will speak on the topic of how “Joshua, descendant of Rachel and Joseph, restores the glory of Rachel.” Rabbi Klausner marched two Torahs through the corridor together with Haies in 2005. The afternoon program will focus on the issue of “Bullying, Bystanders or Upstanders,” and will include a discussion led by Haies centering on the adult problem remembering the story of the Biblical Joseph and his brothers. Ronald Wachtel of the organization Kav L'Noar will present the problem among teenagers. An evening is planned as well.
The program on Wednesday, June 20 is set to begin with a Torah reading upon the arrival of the 9:00 a.m. Egged #163 bus from Jerusalem. Depending on demand, shuttles may be arranged from the Gilo Junction to the Tomb as well.
The Torah scroll to be used for the program was dedicated on July 7, 2005 in memory of Reuvein Shlomo ben Yeshayahu o.b.m., the father of Lee Kaplan of Atlanta, Georgia. “On that day, dancing began at the Great Synagogue and continued on Rehov King George to the Inbal Hotel,” recalls Haies, “followed by dancing, dedication, speeches and seuda (feasting) at the Tomb complex." The first Torah scroll used at Beit Bnei Rachel was dedicated to the complex in 1998 from Haies herself, in memory of her “two Rachels” – one being her father's mother, and the other being her mother's mother.
Also on the program will be a talk by Atara Gur, “Rachel Imeinu Scholar and Author” who Haies explains will “tell you what you don't already know” about Rachel. At approximately 4:00 p.m. Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz is scheduled to speak on “Joining Hands / Two Visions of Community.” He is followed by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, who will address the topic of “Politics and Sinat Chinom: A Deadly Sin.” The final speaker, at 7:00 p.m. is popular author and counselor Miriam Adahan, who will speak on “Staying Sane in an Insane World.”
On Thursday, the third and final day of the symposium is also the birthday of Joseph, son of the Biblical Rachel and Yaakov, and it is also the date of his death, Haies points out. “On this anniversary in past years we have had as many as 400 participants,” she says.
In June 1998, 4,000 people came to the event, prompting officials to open the Tomb 24 hours a day.
At 10:00 a.m, Rabbi Shimshon Nadel is scheduled to speak on “The Return to Zion in the Days of Ezra & Nechemia and the Contemporary Return to Zion.” The afternoon is expected to be filled with surprise guests, workshops, “open mike” and musical interludes. Lunch buffets, wine supperettes and a Thursday evening performance by Dov Shurin are all planned as well.