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Rachel's Tomb Review

This Israeli enclave in a Palestinian area is on the right shortly after passing through the border. The Bible relates that the matriarch Rachel, second and favorite wife of Jacob, died in childbirth on the outskirts of Bethlehem, "and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave" (Genesis 35:19–20). There is no trace of that pillar, but observant Jews for centuries have hallowed the velvet-draped cenotaph inside the building as the site of Rachel's tomb. People come to pray here for good health, fertility, and a safe birth. Some pilgrims wind a red thread seven times around the tomb, and give away snippets of it as talismans to cure all ills.

Islam as well venerates Rachel. Next to the tomb is a Muslim cemetery, reflecting the Middle Eastern tradition that it is a special privilege to be buried near a great personage. Note that men and women are segregated here and have different entrances. Egged Bus 163 runs from Jerusalem to the tomb. The site is surrounded by a concrete barrier, so for access from Bethlehem you must return to Jerusalem.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Rte. 60, Bethlehem
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Sun.–Wed., 12:30 am–10:30 pm, Thurs. 24 hrs., Fri. midnight–sunset; Sat. opens after nightfall
  • Location: Bethlehem
Updated: 05-29-2013

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