Rachel's Tomb 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Since 2001, Palestinian civics textbooks, “with the help of Arab and Islamic
centers,” have been referring to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as the Bilal Ibn
Rabah Mosque, according to a new report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace
and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE).
released on Tuesday, said that Palestinian Authority textbooks have given new
names to other historical Jewish sites as well.
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The report was recently
prepared by IMPACT-SE following a UNESCO decision to recognize Rachel’s Tomb as
a mosque only.
According to the report, in 1995, Rachel’s Tomb was
described in a grade-6 textbook as “Rachel’s Tomb: mother of Joseph our lord
(Said) and Jacob’s wife.”
In 2001, in a 7th-grade textbook, the editors
reported to their students that they have decided “with the help of Arab and
Islamic centers” to change its name to Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque.
renaming turns the feminine Rachel into a masculine Bilal. According to Muslim
tradition, Bilal was a slave who was set free and then converted to Islam after
meeting Muhammad of the Kuraish tribe; he was later buried either in Bader near
Amman or in Damascus, the legend says.
According to IMPACT-SE CEO Shelley
Elkayam, who authored the report, the phenomenon is characterized by a few
levels of significance, among them gender symbolism alongside subversive logical
undermining and a slipping away from the modernhistorical to the
Elkayam asserted that the Palestinian text itself
explains the process of change as a conscious manipulation that was done by
“Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic centers and with the help of charities working
to revive the Arab Palestinian heritage to maintain the character of Palestine
and its heritage like Al-Burke Wall – the Western Wall, Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque –
In the schoolbook from 2001, in an exercise titled
“attempts to erase the Palestinian heritage,” the Bilal Mosque (Rachel’s Tomb)
and the Cave of the Patriarchs are presented to the children as part of the
Palestinian “philosophical heritage” and examples of “the attempt to ‘turn
Jewish’ Muslim-religious places like: Abraham’s Mosque [Cave of the Patriarchs]
and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque [Rachel’s Tomb].”
According to Elkayam,
the manipulation confuses children and causes a misunderstanding of historical
sequence and is against UNESCO recommendations in the field of education and