Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rachel's Tomb

  Rachel was a woman from the Bible who is very important. The story goes like this: Jacob wanted to marry a girl named Rachel, but her father said he could not marry her unless he worked for him for 7 years. So he did, but at the wedding the father substituted Leah, her older sister! Jacob had to work another 7 years to marry Rachel also (men married more than one woman back then). Leah had many children, but Rachel was barren, so she gave her maidservant to Jacob to have a child. Later she had two boys. All in all Jacob had 12 boys with his two wives and two of their maidservants. They became the 12 tribes of Israel.  "In Jeremiah 31:15, the prophet speaks of 'Rachel weeping for her children' (KJV). This is interpreted in Judaism as Rachel crying for an end to her descendants' sufferings and exiles following the destruction by the Babylonians of the First Temple in ancient Jerusalem." from Wikipedia. There is a lot more to this story in the Bible-Genesis 29.

"For Jews, Rachel's Tomb is the third holiest site after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. It has become an important place of Jewish pilgrimage, especially Jewish women unable to give birth." (from The picture above shows what it used to look like. The picture above is actually a small model in a park in Israel. Because the tomb was in Bethlehem, which is part of the West Bank the wall has been built around the tomb. Here is the link to the site by the Committee for Rachel's Tomb- It explains that this site was extremely important to the Jews. The pictures on the other side are what it looks like now. It has been cut off from Bethlehem by the wall which now surrounds the West Bank area.
Here is a page that tells what happened to many of the Palestinians who lived and worked in Bethlehem. They were not terrorists who did things to hurt Jews who visited, but their land and homes were confiscated.

I was surprised when walking around this area that the tomb has been totally cut off from the graveyard that it was in before. These pictures show the graveyard and the wall that blocks Rachel's Tomb. This is such a sad thing for both Jews and all of the people in Bethlehem. Neither of them have easy access anymore to the tomb. This happened because there is a lot of fear and mistrust between people. The Jewish people wanted to be able to visit an important holy site, but were afraid of the Arabs who wanted to protect the land that they considered to be their own. All of the problems like this are so complicated and based on a long history. It is not easy to figure out the best way for people to live together here.

We also visited the Aida Refugee Camp where many people live who were displaced from their homes. It is run by the United Nations. They provide schools, food and funding for people to live. The entry to the camp has a huge key and keyhole which represents the fact that many people left their homes with only their keys assuming that they would be able to come back sometime. Now they only have their keys. Their homes and their land has been taken. 

One more video!

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