Hebron-Bethlehem-From Abraham to Rachel

Hebron-Bethlehem-From Abraham to Rachel
January 28, 1997

I am ashamed to admit that, in spite of the relatively short distance, I very
infrequently visit Rachel's Tomb - Kever Rachel Emenu - in Bethlehem. The last
time I was there was before the city was abandoned to Arafat, over a year ago.
I recall feeling very emotionally drained, at that time. 'Redeployment' was
pending and the very thought was beyond belief.

Today I met a group of about 40 people in Jerusalem, and escorted them into
Hebron for a full day tour. They requested to stop first at Kever Rachel, so
before leaving Jerusalem to Hebron, we detoured to Bethlehem. The stretch of
road exiting Jerusalem to Kever Rachel is still under Israeli authority. There
was a time when Kever Rachel was a familiar site to those in transit to and
from Hebron-Kiryat Arba-Efrat-Gush Etzion to Jerusalem. The diminutive domed
edifice, built over the traditional tomb of the Matriarch Rachel in the middle
1800's by Sir Moses Montifiori was a constant link between Hebron and
Jerusalem. Children would wait to pass Kever Rachel, some people would
automatically say a short prayer or recite a Psalm, and others would glance up,
taking the everyday site for granted.

Today, when we arrived at Kever Rachel I could not believe my eyes: The dome
was nowhere to be seen - instead a long stone wall lines the street, blocking
the view, hiding Rachel's Tomb. Stunned, stepping off the bus, I followed the
other visitors inside, said a few Psalms, and went back outside. The
construction is continuing - the building is being enlarged and it is obvious
that the security precautions have not yet been completed. The wall will
continue to grow, surrounding the tomb. In a tiny trailer I found the Kever
Rachel Kollel - a group of yeshiva students studying Torah adjacent to the
tomb. Eventually, when the building is finished, they will move into a room
inside the compound. But for the time being a group of almost 10 men sit
cramped inside the trailer, trying to ignite a spark of light in the gloomy
reality of Arafatland.

I sort of felt the same way yesterday when I accompanied some Swiss
journalists to the Abu-Snenah hilltop in Hebron. This hilltop is now part of
the palestinian authority. This was my first venture into area H1 - the part of
Hebron abandoned by Israel to the Arabs. On the way, after crossing the
'border' I saw a big red sign announcing our entrance into an area patrolled by
'palestinian police.'

It is difficult for me to coherently express my emotions upon seeing such a
sign. After all, the reality of the Hebron accords has started to sink in,
slowly. But still, seeing the letters standing out on a big red sign, it has a
way of making your blood run cold. Friends of mine have been stopped by
palestinian police in various sections of Hebron. Very simply, there aren't any

I just ask myself, what Avraham Yitzhak, Ya'akov, Sara, Rivka, Leah and
Rachel - wherever they are - what are they saying to themselves and to each
other when they see what is going on here. I know what I would be saying if I
were in their place - and I can only hope that they are more forgiving than I
would be.

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