Watch: Hundreds Pray at Rachel's Tomb

Prayers, song in Bethlehem as worshippers gather to mark anniversary of biblical matriarch's death.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

קבר רחל
קבר רחל
ישי קרוב

Hundreds gathered at the tomb of Biblical matriarch Rachel in Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem) on Tuesday, to mark the anniversary of her death on the 11th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. 

Worshipers flocked to the tomb to pray and sing, and more were expected to attend throughout the day to say prayers in her merit. Women, especially, come to pray to the matriarch whose life mirrors many of their problems.

Rachel died in childbirth on the road to Israel, travelling with her husband Jacob, his wives and sons and her first son Joseph, born after years of childlessness. It is said that she remained buried in Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem), instead of in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, in order to be a sign of hope for the Jewish people after they were expelled from Israel during the destruction of the first Temple, as they were brought to Babylon. 

The Jews prayed at her tomb on their way to the first exile in Babylonia after the first Holy Temple's destruction in 586 BCE, since which the site has symbolized the pain of exile and the return from exile of the Jewish people. The prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 31, describes how Rachel's voice is heard weeping bitterly over the exile of her people and tells of G-d's promise to her that they will return one day.

Today, Rachel's Tomb is located within the city limits of PA-controlled Bethlehem, but is less than a kilometer south of the Jerusalem municipal border and entered only from Jerusalem on a road protected by high concrete walls, so that visiting it is convenient and secure.

The Egged bus company is running extra non-stop buses from Teddy Stadium in southern Jerusalem and from the capital's religious neighborhoods to the tomb, working on an expanded schedule, as the area is closed to private vehicles. Police on Sunday issued a warning to drivers to stay away from the area, stressing that access to the Tomb would be strictly by bus.

Thousands of police and border guards are on hand to ensure the safety of visitors. The area, which is surrounded by thick bullet-proof concrete walls in response to past attacks by Arab terrorists, is considered safe, despite it being surrounded by Bethlehem on three sides.