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February 24, 2022

Kever Rachel

Tomb of Rachel -Visit Your Jewish Matriarch

For Jewish visitors to Jerusalem, the Western Wall or Kotel, is a magnet, pulling observant and non-observant alike into the center of the world.

Western Wall Jerusalem

Kounosu  CC BY-SA 3.0
The Kotel (Western Wall) at night

Yet, just five miles from the Kotel there’s another fascinating Jewish holy site, Kever Rachel or the Tomb of Rachel.

Rachel’s Tomb

Kever Rachel—Rachel’s Tomb is one of the most sacred sites in the Jewish heritage.

“Coming to Jerusalem and not visiting Rachel’s Tomb is like going home and not visiting your mother,” states a tour guide friend. He’s right—Rachel, one of the matriarchs of the Jewish people, was one of the most influential women in the destiny of the nation.

Her burial place is described in Genesis 35:16-21.  Scripture describes how Jacob and his pregnant wife, Rachel, set out from Beit El.  When she died after giving birth to Benjamin, we are told: “She was buried on the road to Efrat—now Bethlehem. Over her grave Jacob set up a pillar, it is the pillar at Rachel’s grave to this day.”

Kever Rachel - Rachel’s Tomb, 1910

G.E.Franklin  Public Domain
Mother Rachel’s Tomb, 1910

Jacob buried Rachel at that spot, rather than in the family burial place in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, because he foresaw that his descendants would pass that way on their march into exile to Babylon. From her grave, Rachel would pray for their safety and their ultimate return, something which God relayed to her through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:15-17): “Your children shall return to their own borders.” Generation after generation of Jews have come to Rachel’s Tomb to pray for salvation in times of personal or national need.

Kever Rachel History

From the Byzantine period to the 1840s, Rachel’s Tomb consisted of a tiny domed structure. Sir Moses Montefiore renovated it in 1841, and the place eventually found itself at the main entrance to Bethlehem as the town expanded.

In 1998 security concerns mandated a complete concrete covering for the tomb, and for a short while during the Al Aksa intifada, which started in October 2000, Kever Rachel was closed to the public. Intensive protests, mostly from women, forced the authorities to reconsider and for several years entry to the area of the tomb was by bulletproof bus only.

אירית לוי  CC BY 2.5Inside Mother Rachel’s Tomb

אירית לוי  CC BY 2.5
Inside Mother Rachel’s Tomb

Over the past few years, as the security barrier went up separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem, access to Rachel’s Tomb became much safer and easier. Visitors can drive the 10 minutes along Hebron Road from central Jerusalem, finding plenty of free parking. Alternatively, the Egged 163 bus leaves every hour from the Central Bus Station and drops you at the entrance to the tomb. The return journey is 45 minutes later.

Renovations in late 2011 widened the women’s section, installed additional restrooms, and enhanced the comfort level of visitors.

Kever Rachel: Did You Know?

Every year, more than 100,000 Jews visit the Tomb of Rachel on the anniversary of her passing.


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