Private cars will be allowed into the Rachel's Tomb compound beginning Monday, after more than seven years in which none were allowed in. After a month-long trial period, the authorities will assess whether or not to continue the new arrangement.
When the Oslo War broke out in 2000 and Rachel's Tomb began coming under fire from Arabs, the compound was fortified and private cars were not allowed in. From then on, visitors had to take a bulletproof bus from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem to reach the holy site.
The new arrangement was reached after efforts by the Rachel's Tomb Heritage Fund, the Rachel Imeinu Foundation, the Holy Sites Director Yossi Shvinger, MKs Uri Ariel and Meir Porush, and officials from the Public Security Ministry, Israel Police and Border Police.
Cars will be allowed into the compound in groups no larger than 50.
'Security Like Nowhere Else'
According to Chaim Silberstein of the Rachel Imeinu Foundation, the decision was reached after a meeting between Rabbi Chanan Porat, MK Meir Porush, Jerusalem Police Commander Aharon Franco and Silberstein himself last month. The religious participants asked Franco to reconsider the closure imposed on the compound, seeing as Hevron and its holy sites are open to visitors without any protective walls. "We said that the place is already fortified and there are high walls and security like nowhere else in Israel," he explained.
One year ago, the security forces decided to allow non-bulletproof buses into the compound and the change Monday marks another step in a progression toward normalcy, Silberstein said.
In order to test the new arrangement, people interested in visiting the tomb are invited to join a 50-car convoy Monday afternoon at 4:30 P.M. The cars will proceed from the "300 checkpoint" at the end of the Hevron Road.