Few places in Israel are as joyous and jumping for as many hours of the day and night as Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem. Today, tourists come and go for lunch or to enjoy the beautiful view of Bethlehem and the wilderness over a cup of coffee as locals frequently visit its country club and convention center and the “voice of the bridegroom and the bride” –– and their guests –– are heard almost nightly at its banquet hall.
The joy is even greater when you realize that things were not always thus: Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, founded in 1926, took its name (“the height of Rachel”) from its location overlooking the tomb of Rachel, who died giving birth to Benjamin on the road to Bethlehem. Today, you can enjoy a visit to the unusual archaeological park, with modern sculptures that are a fascinating contrast to the remains of the seventh-century Judean fortress, Jewish ritual bath, Roman military camp and Byzantine Church.
Another highlight is the grove of 200 olive trees, from which spring the Olive Columns, two 33-foot-high pedestals that are the work of sculpted by artist Ran Morin. From the top of the columns sprout live olive trees, symbolizing peace and a bright future. From here, you can get a fabulous view of the Judean desert, the Mountains of Moab, homeland of the biblical Ruth, the famed fortress of Herodian, and the Dead Sea.