120,000 visitors expected at Rachel’s Tomb
Parliamentarians visit Jewish landmark on outskirts of Bethlehem ahead of event marking anniversary of Rachel's death.
People praying at Rachel's Tomb. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
Preparations are underway to secure the visit of 120,000 worshippers at Rachel’s
Tomb on October 25 to 28, to mark the anniversary of her death.
Wednesday morning parliamentarians Yisrael Eichler and Uri Maklev (UTJ), Yulia
Shamolov Berkovich (Kadima) and David Azoulay (Shas) traveled to the tomb, which
is located on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
visiting Rachel’s Tomb, they sat around a long table, in an underground room.
Representatives from the IDF, the Border Police, public transportation and
emergency medical services spoke to the parliamentarians from the Public
Petitions Committee about their preparations for the event.
anniversary of Rachel’s death, according to the Hebrew calendar falls on Shabbat
of October 27. Religious prohibition against travel makes it impossible for most
worshipers to pray at the tomb on that day.
Instead it is expected that
worshipers would arrive one day before, and one day after.
encouraged to access the site through public and special
Shuttle buses are available from Teddy Stadium in the
Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem to the tomb from 4 p.m. to midnight on Thursday,
October 25, and until 2 p.m.
on Friday October 26. The bus service is
also available to the tomb on Saturday night October 27 after Shabbat until
midnight and on Sunday October 28 until 4 p.m.
But tickets will be NIS
Azoulay said that the committee was exploring the possibility that
a small number of worshippers would be allowed to stay at the tomb over
For security reasons the IDF and the Border Police want to
discourage worshippers from walking to and from the tomb over
Eichler said it was important to wait an hour after the Shabbat
before opening the tomb to the public, so that no one working on behalf of the
event would be forced to desecrate Shabbat to prepare for the arrival of the
“Our mother Rachel, would not have wanted us to desecrate
Shabbat,” he said.
But the most emotional moment in the two-hour meeting
came, when Shamolov Berkovich spoke of the shock she felt when she arrived at
It was the first time, she said, that she had traveled down the
winding road, flanked by two high concrete walls, that protect the worshippers
from Palestinians in Bethlehem.
Then she saw the tomb, protected by
barbed wire and a guard tower.
Tears fell from her eyes as she described
how hard it was to see those walls. She said that she wished people could pray
to God without traveling by such walls. The large concrete barriers, she said,
reminded her of the divisions that exist within Israeli society as a
“As someone who immigrated to a Jewish state, it is difficult to
see that people have a hard time visiting a holy site,” she said.