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.

Rachel's Tomb_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rachel's Tomb_311
(photo credit: 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.
On 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.
After 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.
The actual 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.
Worshipers are encouraged to access the site through public and special transportation.
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 6.60.
Azoulay said that the committee was exploring the possibility that a small number of worshippers would be allowed to stay at the tomb over Shabbat.
For security reasons the IDF and the Border Police want to discourage worshippers from walking to and from the tomb over Shabbat.
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 worshippers.
“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 the tomb.
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 whole.
“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.