When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachels tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, “What shall I do about my son? (1 Samuel 10:2)
Due to security reasons; Rachels Tomb is closed during these times:
Sunday-Thursday, 10:30pm to 1:30am
During Shabbat and Holidays
Rachels Tomb, in Hebrew Kever Rachel, is a Christian and Jewish sacred place to visit located just outside Bethlehem, going toward Jerusalem. Rachel’s Tomb is located on the West Bank. Along the Bethlehem-Ephrath road lies the large rock traditionally thought to be the burial place In addition, it has also been a prominent spot for Muslims in the area.
Rachels Tomb has a rock with eleven stones on top. These eleven stones represent the eleven sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth. Over the years a dome supported by arches protected the sacred spot from vandals and overzealous pilgrims.
There is an ancient Jewish belief that if “blessed” red cords are worn around the wrist of a pregnant woman, she will have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Rachel’s Tomb is thought to bring extra blessing, so women travel from all around to touch their red cord (segulah) to the place of her burial. This is a common belief as Rachel is seen as an “eternal mother” protecting all mothers everywhere from troubled labor and delivery.
Many Jews, not just pregnant women, visit Rachel’s Tomb on the 11th of Cheshvan. That is the holiday commemorating her date of death.
There is also a theory that Rachel’s Tomb is really located in northern Jerusalem near A-Ram. This place, called Ramah in the Bible, was mentioned as Rachel’s burial place when King Saul visits. This is recorded in the “Prophets” section of the Hebrew Bible. Later, Jewish scholars felt the site near Bethlehem was more likely to be the burial place of Rachel.
In 1841, the Ottoman Turks granted Sir Moses Montefiore permission to restore the tomb. At this point it was simply a worn dome over a rock. He constructed the two room building visitors to Rachel’s Tomb see today. In 1885, shortly before his death, Montefiore oversaw the rebuilding and fortification of the dome over the large rock.
However, the popularity of Rachels Tomb took its toll on this sacred monument. The Sefardi Jews of Bombay donated funds to build a well in 1864. It is an hour and a half walk to Old Jerusalem. Pilgrims were often finding themselves very thirsty and without fresh drinking water on their walks to and from Rachel’s Tomb.
During the Jordanian Period, Jews were not allowed to visit Rachels Tomb. Then much of it was damaged during the Six Day War in 1967. The dome was rebuilt, out of necessity, in 1990s. At that time a room with a hall way was built over Rachels Tomb to further protect it from the elements.
Due to the tension in the region, there is now a barrier surrounding Rachel’s Tomb. It walls the tomb from the nearby Bethlehem. Entrance is only permitted to pilgrims and tourists entering from Israel.