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Tomb of Rachel the Matriarch

The tomb of the Biblical matriarch Rachel is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem

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The tomb of the Biblical matriarch Rachel is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem, around 300 meters up the road from Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood.

 

The site is identified as the burial place of Jacob’s wife, Rachel. According to the Bible, Rachel was buried on the Bethlehem road: "And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day" (Genesis 35:19-20).

 

Travelers and pilgrims have been documenting and describing the tomb structure ever since the beginning of the Byzantine Period (324-638 C.E.). Their descriptions indicate that the building assumed various forms over the years.

 

In 1841, after Sir Moses Montefiore received a permit from the Turkish Sultan, he had the tomb refurbished and expanded into the structure familiar to us today, with its famous dome.

 

The refurbishing included the addition of a vestibule close to the building, with a heavy wooden door. The door has survived through the present, along with its original key and a lock with a special mechanism. The method for opening it was a guarded secret known only to the beadle of the site.

 

An ancient waterhole is located near the door; apparently once used for hand washing and to provide water for passersby and visitors. Many Jews visit the tomb, especially on the anniversary of the matriarch’s death – 11 Cheshvan. Near the main building, the Rachel Imeinu Foundation established the World Bat Mitzvah Center.

 

There are two entrances inside the building: one for men and one for women. The site is open nonstop. Private vehicles are allowed into the compound when parking spaces are available.

 

Rachel’s Tomb, one of the most prominent symbols of the Land of Israel, has been commemorated in photographs, paintings and numerous souvenirs.

 

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