A magnificent plaque relief - tomb of Rachel
Made in israel by an artist - circa 1950
Has a gilt / painted finish on bronze
The tomb in c.1840, immediately before Montefiore's renovations
In 1806 François-René Chateaubriand described it as "a square edifice, surmounted with a small dome: it enjoys the privileges of a mosque, for the Turks as well as the Arabs, honour the families of the patriarchs. [..] it is evidently a Turkish edifice, erected in memory of a santon.
An 1824 report described "a stone building, evidently of Turkish construction, which terminates at the top in a dome. Within this edifice is the tomb. It is a pile of stones covered with white plaster, about 10 feet long and nearly as high. The inner wall of the building and the sides of the tomb are covered with Hebrew names, inscribed by Jews."
When the structure was undergoing repairs in around 1825, excavations at the foot of the monument revealed that it was not built directly over an underground cavity. However, a small distance from the site, an unusually deep cavern was discovered.
In 1830, the Ottomans legally recognized the tomb as a Jewish holy site. Proto-Zionist banker Sir Moses Montefiore visited Rachel's Tomb together with his wife on their first visit to the Holy Land in 1828. The couple were childless, and Lady Montefiore was deeply moved by the tomb, which was in good condition at that time. Before the couple's next visit, in 1839, the Galilee earthquake of 1837 had heavily damaged the tomb. In 1838 the tomb was described as "merely an ordinary Muslim Wely, or tomb of a holy person; a small square building of stone with a dome, and within it a tomb in the ordinary Muhammedan form; the whole plastered over with mortar. It is neglected and falling to decay; though pilgrimages are still made to it by the Jews. The naked walls are covered with names in several languages; many of them Hebrew."
Plaque inside the tomb acknowledging the Montefiore renovations:
THIS IS THE HOUSE
WHICH WAS BUILT BY THE GREAT PRINCE OF ISRAEL
SIR MOSES MONTEFIORE
MAY HIS LIGHT SHINE FORTH
AND HIS WIFE, THE DAUGHTER OF KINGS
MAY WE MERIT TO SEE THE RIGHTEOUS MESSIAH
GOD WILLING, AMEN
In 1841, Montefiore renovated the site and obtained for the Jews the key of the tomb. He renovated the entire structure, reconstructing and re-plastering its white dome, and added an antechamber, including a mihrab for Muslim prayer, to ease Muslim fears. Professor Glenn Bowman notes that some writers have described this as a “purchase” of the tomb by Montefiore, asserting that this was not the case.
In 1843, Ridley Haim Herschell described the building as an ordinary Muslim tomb. He reported that Jews, including Montefiore, were obliged to remain outside the tomb, and prayed at a hole in the wall, so that their voices enter into the tomb. In 1844, William Henry Bartlett referred to the tomb as a "Turkish Mosque", following a visit to the area in 1842.
In 1845, Montefiore made further architectural improvements at the tomb. He extended the building by constructing an adjacent vaulted ante-chamber on the east for Muslim prayer use and burial preparation, possibly as an act of conciliation. The room included a mihrab facing Mecca.
In the mid-1850s, the marauding Arab e-Ta'amreh tribe forced the Jews to furnish them with an annual £30 payment to prevent them from damaging the tomb.
According to Elizabeth Anne Finn, wife of the British consul, James Finn, the only time the Sephardic Jewish community left the Old City of Jerusalem was for monthly prayers at "Rachel's Sepulchre" or Hebron.
In 1864, the Jews of Bombay donated money to dig a well. Although Rachel's Tomb was only an hour and a half walk from the Old City of Jerusalem, many pilgrims found themselves very thirsty and unable to obtain fresh water. Every Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the Jewish month), the Maiden of Ludmir would lead her followers to Rachel’s tomb and lead a prayer service with various rituals, which included spreading out requests of the past four weeks over the tomb. On the traditional anniversary of Rachel's death, she would lead a solemn procession to the tomb where she chanted psalms in a night-long vigil.
In 1868 a publication by the Catholic missionary society the Paulist Fathers noted that "[Rachel's] memory has always been held in respect by the Jews and Christians, and even now the former go there every Thursday, to pray and read the old, old history of this mother of their race. When leaving Bethlehem for the fourth and last time, after we had passed the tomb of Rachel, on our way to Jerusalem, Father Luigi and I met a hundred or more Jews on their weekly visit to the venerated spot."
The Hebrew monthly ha-Levanon of August 19, 1869, rumored that a group of Christians had purchased land around the tomb and were in the process of demolishing Montefiore's vestibule in order to erect a church there. During the following years, land in the vicinity of the tomb was acquired by Nathan Straus. In October 1875, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer purchased three dunams of land near the tomb intending to establish a Jewish farming colony there. Custody of the land was transferred to the Perushim community in Jerusalem. In the 1880s, Conder and Kitchener noted: "A modern Moslem building stands over the site, and there are Jewish graves near it."
In 1912 the Ottoman Government permitted the Jews to repair the shrine itself, but not the antechamber. In 1915 the structure had four walls, each about 7 m (23 ft.) long and 6 m (20 ft.) high. The dome, rising about 3 m (10 ft.), "is used by the Moslems for prayer; its holy character has hindered them from removing the Hebrew letters from its walls."
British Mandate period
Three months after the British occupation of Palestine the whole place was cleaned and whitewashed by the Jews without protest from the Muslims. However, in 1921 when the Chief Rabbinate applied to the Municipality of Bethlehem for permission to perform repairs at the site, local Muslims objected. In view of this, the High Commissioner ruled that, pending appointment of the Holy Places Commission provided for under the Mandate, all repairs should be undertaken by the Government. However, so much indignation was caused in Jewish circles by this decision that the matter was dropped, the repairs not being considered urgent. In 1925 the Sephardic Jewish community requested permission to repair the tomb. The building was then made structurally sound and exterior repairs were effected by the Government, but permission was refused by the Jews (who had the keys) for the Government to repair the interior of the shrine. As the interior repairs were unimportant, the Government dropped the matter, in order to avoid controversy. In 1926 Max Bodenheimer blamed the Jews for letting one of their holy sites appear so neglected and uncared for.
During this period, both Jews and Muslims visited the site. From the 1940s, it came to be viewed as a symbol of the Jewish people's return to Zion, to its ancient homeland, For Jewish women, the tomb was associated with fertility and became a place of pilgrimage to pray for successful childbirth. Depictions of the Tomb of Rachel have appeared in Jewish religious books and works of art. Muslims prayed inside the mosque there and the cemetery at the tomb was the main Muslim cemetery in the Bethlehem area. The building was also used for Islamic funeral rituals. It is reported that Jews and Muslims respected each other and accommodated each other's rituals. During the riots of 1929, violence hampered regular visits by Jews to the tomb. Both Jews and Muslims demanded control of the site, with the Muslims claiming it was an integral part of the Muslim cemetery within which it is situated. It also demanded a renewal of the old Muslim custom of purifying corpses in the tomb's antechamber.
Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War till 1967, the site was ruled by Jordan and occupied by the Islamic waqf. On December 11, 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 which called for free access to all the holy places in Israel and the remainder of the territory of the former Palestine Mandate of Great Britain. In April 1949, the Jerusalem Committee prepared a document for the UN Secretariat in order to establish the status of the different holy places in the area of the former British Mandate for Palestine. It noted that ownership of Rachel's Tomb was claimed by both Jews and Muslims. The Jews claimed possession by virtue of a 1615 firman granted by the Pasha of Jerusalem which gave them exclusive use of the site and that the building, which had fallen into decay, was entirely restored by Moses Montefiore in 1845; the keys were obtained by the Jews from the last Muslim guardian at this time. The Muslims claimed the site was a place of Muslim prayer and an integral part of the Muslim cemetery within which it was situated. They stated that the Ottoman Government had recognised it as such and that it is included among the Tombs of the Prophets for which identity signboards were issued by the Ministry of Waqfs in 1898. They also asserted that the antechamber built by Montefiore was specially built as a place of prayer for Muslims. The UN ruled that the status quo, an arrangement approved by the Ottoman Decree of 1757 concerning rights, privileges and practices in certain Holy Places, apply to the site.
In theory, free access was to be granted as stipulated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements, though Israelis, unable to enter Jordan, were prevented from visiting. Non-Israeli Jews, however, continued to visit the site.[dubious – discuss] During this period the Muslim cemetery was expanded.
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel occupied of the West Bank, which included the tomb. The tomb was placed under Israeli military administration. Some time after the occupation, Islamic crescents, inscribed into the rooms of the structure, were erased. Muslims claim that they were prevented from using the mosque, although they were allowed to use the cemetery for a while.
Prime minister Levi Eshkol instructed that the tomb be included within the new expanded municipal borders of Jerusalem, but citing security concerns, Moshe Dayan decided not to include it within the territory that was annexed to Jerusalem. Starting in 1993, Muslims were barred from using the cemetery. According to Bethlehem University, "[a]ccess to Rachel's Tomb is now restricted to tourists entering from Israel."
Oslo Accords and aftermath (1995–2010)
Following the Oslo accords, the Israeli–Palestinian Interim Agreement was signed on September 28, 1995, placing Rachel's Tomb in Area C under Israeli jurisdiction. Originally, Yitzhak Rabin had decided to cede Rachel's Tomb, along with Bethlehem. Israel's first draft had placed Rachel's Tomb, which is situated 460 metres from the municipal border of Jerusalem, in Area A under PA jurisdiction. Popular pressure exerted by religious parties in Israel to keep the religious site under Israeli control threatened the agreement, and Yassir Arafat agreed to forego the request.
On December 1, 1995, Bethlehem, with the exception of the tomb enclave, passed under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. Jews could reach it in bulletproof vehicles under military supervision. In 1996 Israel began an 18-month fortification of the site at a cost of $2m. It included a 13-foot-high (4.0 m) wall and adjacent military post. In response, Palestinians said that "the Tomb of Rachel was on Islamic land" and that the structure was in fact a mosque built at the time of the Arab conquest in honour of Bilal ibn Rabah, an Ethiopian known in Islamic history as the first muezzin.
After an attack on Joseph's Tomb and its subsequent takeover by Arabs, hundreds of residents of Bethlehem and the Aida refugee camp, led by the Palestinian Authority-appointed governor of Bethlehem, Muhammad Rashad al-Jabari, attacked Rachel's Tomb. They set the scaffolding that had been erected around it on fire and tried to break in. The IDF dispersed the mob with gunfire and stun grenades, and dozens were wounded. In the following years, the Israeli-controlled site became a flashpoint between young Palestinians who hurled stones, bottles and firebombs and IDF troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
At the end of 2000, when the second intifada broke out, the tomb came under attack for 41 days. Fatah operatives and members of the Palestinian security services who were responsible for curbing militant activity against Israelis actively participated in it. In May 2001, fifty Jews found themselves trapped inside by a firefight between the IDF and Palestinian Authority gunmen. In March 2002 the IDF returned to Bethlehem as part of Operation Defensive Shield and remained there for an extended period of time. In September 2002, the tomb was incorporated on the Israeli side of the West Bank barrier and surrounded by a concrete wall and watchtowers.
In February 2005, the Israel Supreme Court rejected a Palestinian appeal to change the route of the security fence in the region of the tomb. Israeli construction destroyed the Palestinian neighbourhood of Qubbet Rahil. Israel also declared the area to be a part of Jerusalem. From 2011, a "Wall Museum" was created by Palestinians on the North wall of the Israeli separation barrier surrounding Rachel’s tomb.
In February 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the tomb would become a part of the national Jewish heritage sites rehabilitation plan. The decision was opposed by the Palestinian Authority, who saw it as a political decision associated with Israel's settlement project. The UN's special coordinator for the Middle East, Robert Serry, issued a statement of concern over the move, saying that the site is in Palestinian territory and has significance in both Judaism and Islam. The Jordanian government said that the move would derail peace efforts in the Middle East and condemned "unilateral Israeli measures which affect holy places and offend sentiments of Muslims throughout the world". UNESCO urged Israel to remove the site from its heritage list, stating that it was "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories". A resolution was passed at UNESCO that acknowledged both the Jewish and Islamic significance of the site, describing the site as both Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque and as Rachel's Tomb. The resolution passed with 44 countries supporting it, twelve countries abstaining, and only the United States voting to oppose. An article written by Nadav Shargai of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, published in the Jerusalem Post criticized UNESCO, arguing that the site was not a mosque and that the move was politically motivated to disenfranchise Israel and Jewish religious traditions. Also writing in the Jerusalem Post, Larry Derfner, defended the UNESCO position. He pointed out that UNESCO had explicitly recognized the Jewish connection to the site, having only denounced Israeli claims of sovereignty, while also acknowledging the Islamic and Christian significance of the site. The Israeli Prime Minister's Office criticised the resolution, claiming that: "the attempt to detach the Nation of Israel from its heritage is absurd. ... If the nearly 4,000-year-old burial sites of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish Nation – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah – are not part of its culture and tradition, then what is a national cultural site?"
Jewish religious significance
In Jewish lore, Rachel was born on 11 Cheshvan 1553 BCE.
According to the Midrash, the first person to pray at Rachel's tomb was her eldest son, Joseph. While he was being carried away to Egypt after his brothers had sold him into slavery, he broke away from his captors and ran to his mother's grave. He threw himself upon the ground, wept aloud and cried "Mother! mother! Wake up. Arise and see my suffering." He heard his mother respond: "Do not fear. Go with them, and God will be with you."
A number of reasons are given why Rachel was buried by the road side and not in the Cave of Machpela with the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs:
Jacob foresaw that following the destruction of the First Temple the Jews would be exiled to Babylon. They would cry out as they passed her grave, and be comforted by her. She would intercede on their behalf, asking for mercy from God who would hear her prayer.
Although Rachel was buried within the boundaries of the Holy Land, she was not buried in the Cave of Machpelah due to her sudden and unexpected death. Jacob, looking after his children and herds of cattle, simply did not have the opportunity to embalm her body to allow for the slow journey to Hebron.
Jacob was intent on not burying Rachel at Hebron, as he wished to prevent himself feeling ashamed before his forefathers, lest it appear he still regarded both sisters as his wives – a biblically forbidden union.
According to the mystical work, Zohar, when the Messiah appears, he will lead the dispersed Jews back to the Land of Israel, along the road which passes Rachel's grave.
Early Jewish scholars noticed an apparent contradiction in the Bible with regards to the location of Rachel's grave. In Genesis, the Bible states that Rachel was buried "on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." Yet a reference to her tomb in Samuel states: "When you go from me today, you will find two men by Rachel's tomb, in the border of Benjamin, in Zelzah" (1 Sam 10:2). Rashi asks: "Now, isn't Rachel's tomb in the border of Judah, in Bethlehem?" He explains that the verse rather means: "Now they are by Rachel's tomb, and when you will meet them, you will find them in the border of Benjamin, in Zelzah." Similarly, Ramban assumes that the site shown today near Bethlehem reflects an authentic tradition. After he had arrived in Jerusalem and seen "with his own eyes" that Rachel's tomb was on the outskirts of Bethlehem, he retracted his original understanding of her tomb being located north of Jerusalem and concluded that the reference in Jeremiah (Jer 31:15) which seemed to place her burial place in Ramah, is to be understood allegorically. There remains however, a dispute as to whether her tomb near Bethlehem was in the tribal territory of Judah, or of her son Benjamin.
A Jewish tradition teaches that Rachel weeps for her children and that when the Jews were taken into exile, she wept as they passed by her grave on the way to Babylonia. Jews have made pilgrimage to the tomb since ancient times.
There is a tradition regarding the key that unlocked the door to the tomb. The key was about 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long and made of brass. The beadle kept it with him at all times, and it was not uncommon that someone would knock at his door in the middle of the night requesting it to ease the labor pains of an expectant mother. The key was placed under her pillow and almost immediately, the pains would subside and the delivery would take place peacefully.
Till this day there is an ancient tradition regarding a segulah or charm which is the most famous women's ritual at the tomb. A red string is tied around the tomb seven times then worn as a charm for fertility. This use of the string is comparatively recent, though there is a report of its use to ward off diseases in the 1880s.
The Torah Ark in Rachel's Tomb is covered with a curtain (Hebrew: parokhet) made from the wedding gown of Nava Applebaum, a young Israeli woman who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in a suicide bombing at Café Hillel in Jerusalem in 2003, on the eve of her wedding.
Tombstone in the shape of Rachel's Tomb, Trumpeldor Cemetery, Tel Aviv
The tomb of Sir Moses Montefiore, adjacent to the Montefiore synagogue in Ramsgate, England, is a replica of Rachel's Tomb.
In 1934, the Michigan Memorial Park planned to reproduce the tomb. When built, it was used to house the sound system and pipe organ used during funerals, but it has since been demolished.
- judaica - Ein prächtiges Plakettenrelief - Grab von Rachel
- Bronze (vergoldet/ versilbert/ patiniert/ kalt lackiert)
- Designer/ Künstler
- Israeli artist
- Geschätzter Zeitraum
- Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts
- Guter Zustand - gebraucht, mit geringfügigen Altersspuren & Mängeln
- 1×7.5×8 cm