Rachel's Tomb

One of the holiest places in Jewish tradition, Rachel's Tomb, Jacobs wife, is on the main road from Jerusalem to Hebron, just at the entrance to Bethlehem. A place of pilgrimage, worship and prayer for Jewish people throughout the ages. Rachel, one of the Matriarchs, died giving birth to Jacob's youngest son Benjamin: And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrat, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." Genesis XXXV: 19-20. The site was known at least as early as the Anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux, in the 4th century CE, who mentions it, as does Arculf in the late 7th. century. Earlier references have their source in Arab traditional legends. The great Jewish traveller and diarist Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela also refers to it commenting (ca 1173): "The Rachel's Tomb is on the main road. The sepulchre is built of 11 blocks of stone - one for each of Jacob's sons - and on the top a dome supported by four columns. Wayfarers inscribe their names on the stone for a memorial" - an early example of graffiti, apparently! In later years, during the late middle ages, many Christian pilgrims, especially women, took note of the site and some even offered prayers for an easy childbirth. In the 19th century, the great British-Jewish philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, on one of his seven visits to Palestine made during his long and eventful life, obtained permission from the Turkish authorities to repair the structure. After many changes throughout the centuries, that is the building that we know today - apart from the most recently erected new façade from 1999-2000. My picture was taken before the alterations.

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