The 11th of the Jewish month Cheshvan is the "Yahrtzeit" (anniversary of the passing) of the Matriarch Rachel. On this date each year, thousands of Jews converge on Rachel's Tomb to pray and to give homage to this great Biblical persona, the only woman in the Torah to be called a shepherdess. Arutz Sheva, Kumah, and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund felt this was the perfect opportunity to bring together English speakers in Israel on a special trip. Billed under the banner "Have You Visited Your Mother Lately?" and with a subsidized price of 20 NIS, the trip was quickly booked up.

'Who here is a new Oleh (immigrant to Israel)?'

"We wanted to create a trip where new Olim (immigrants) can come to Kever Rachel and say to her, 'You can stop crying for us, because we've come home' said trip organizer Yishai Fleisher "When I asked how many people in the bus are Olim, most of the hands went up, and in my mind that was the real success - to bring all these Jews who have decided to come home to visit their mother."

Chaim Silverstein points to where Kever Rachel is on the map

Chaim Silberstein of the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund streamlined the access pass for the bulletproof bus and then took the group to the properties whose purchase his organization facilitated. Chaim told the story of how Rachel's Tomb was saved from the clutches of the Palestinians:

"During the Rabin administration, Kever Rachel was slated to fall into 'Area A', that is, under full Arab civil and military control. Upon seeing this, Knesset Member Chanan Porat decided that he must speak with Rabin in the hopes of changing his mind. As Chanan Porat was walking to Rabin's office, Knesset Member Rabbi Menachem Porush asked Porat where he was going. Hearing that Porat was about to fight for Kever Rachel, Porush asked to join in the meeting. At Rabin's office, Chanan Porat was diligently explaining the ins and outs of the security situation at Kever Rachel and making rational arguments that did not seem to move Rabin.

"Suddenly Rabin looked at Porush and saw that he was crying. Porush held Rabin's hands and with tears streaming down his face, said: 'Yitzchak, it's Mamma Rachel, Mamma Rachel.' At that moment Rabin's heart opened, and he altered the map so that Kever Rachel would remain in Jewish hands."

Silberstein also revealed that there are plans for growth at Rachel's Tomb - such as a Bat Mitzva center that would draw Jewish families from throughout the world on a pilgrimage to celebrate a Jewish girl's rite of passage to womanhood. "Rachel Imeinu (our Matriarch) is the paradigm of the Jewish people's selfless devotion to our G-d and our nation - people must be allowed to come here."

Jews get close to the Matriarch Rachel

After the tour of the properties, the group went on to some personal prayer time. The halls adjacent to the actual grave were packed, but no one in the group seemed to complain about the cramped conditions. Shlomo Goodman, who made Aliyah from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and now lives in Maaleh Adumim, said: "I was intellectually prepared, and knew what Kever Rachel was all about, but the knowledge did not prepare me for the spiritual and emotional reality of the place. Without thinking, I was overcome, I went in there, and there wasn't a dry eye."

'Veshavu Banim LeGvulam - the children shall return to their borders'

Following the hour-long prayer session, the group reconvened outside the complex and boarded the bus. The Kever Rachel part of the trip was over, but now the group needed some time to let the things they saw and felt settle in. The bus took the group to a park in the Gilo neighborhood that featured a spectacular view of Jerusalem. Lunch was brought out, including six bottles of the wine from the Beit El winery.

Yitz Berlin, who had come on Aliyah less than a week before from Baltimore, Maryland, said: "I enjoyed meeting the Arutz Sheva group, especially the faces behind Israel National Radio; it was a great welcome to Eretz Yisrael."

A group photo with spectacular view of Jerusalem in backround

The Torah writes that Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, died when giving birth and was buried in Bethlehem on the road to Efrat, south of Jerusalem. Later, in the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, Rachel is heard weeping for her exiled children:

Thus says G-d: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says G-d: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says G-d; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, says G-d; and your children shall come again to their own border. [Veshavu Banim Le'Gvulam] (31:15-17)

For more info on the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund, email: [email protected]