Tomb of Rachel, Bethlehem

Rachel's Tomb (Hebrew: Kever Rachel) is a Jewish sacred site located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the West Bank. It is also a significant historical and religious site for Muslims and Christians.

advertisement

History of Tomb of Rachel

This site is believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of two of his twelve sons. She died giving birth to Benjamin and "Jacob set a pillar upon her grave" (Gen. 35:19).

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.

Jewish tradition has it 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 Babylon (Jeremiah 31:11-16).

The structure on the site, a cube topped by a dome, was built around 1620 by the Ottoman Turks. It was lengthened in 1860 by Sir Moses Montefiore.

In the 1990's, due to the deteriorating security situation, the original domed structure was fortified and enclosed inside a building with a hall from the entrance. Recently, the site has been surrounded by a barrier to separate it from Bethlehem.

What to See at Tomb of Rachel

The site consists of a rock with eleven stones upon it, one for each of the eleven sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth. Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. The large tomb is now covered by a velvet drape.

Today, the site is very close to the checkpoint from the Palestinian territories into Israel. The original tomb, a rectangular structure with a white dome, has been enclosed inside a fortress, complete with guard tower, soldiers and barbed wire.

Getting There

Rachel's Tomb is difficult to visit because of its location near the Israel/West Bank border, but many still manage to visit this important sacred site. Only bullet-proof buses are allowed direct access to Rachel's Tomb.

There are 6 buses a day leaving from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem; the 163 bus goes to Rachel's Tomb. Consult a local tour guide or tourist office for the latest information.

Quick Facts on Tomb of Rachel

Site Information
Names:Tomb of Rachel
Country:Israel
Categories:shrines; graves
Dedication: Rachel
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:31.720410° N, 35.202127° E
Address:Bethlehem, State of Palestine
Lodging:View hotels near Tomb of Rachel
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Rachel's Tomb - Wikipedia
  2. Eyewitness Travel Guide to the Holy Land

More Information

Rachel's Tomb today, barely visible behind its enclosing fortress. © Committee for Rachel's Tomb
Entrance, looking southwest. © Committee for Rachel's Tomb
Pre-fortress original entrance. © Committee for Rachel's Tomb
Entrance to the tomb itself. © Committee for Rachel's Tomb
Prayer at Rachel's cenotaph. © Committee for Rachel's Tomb

Map of Tomb of Rachel, Bethlehem

Below is a location map and aerial view of Tomb of Rachel. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.