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The truth about Rachel and her Tomb
Rachel was one of Biblical patriarch Jacob’s two wives as well as the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, two of the twelve tribes of Israel. Rachel lived the city of Haran in Mesopotamia (Aram Naharayim, the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers in today Iraq, Syria, Turkey) and was the daughter of Laban the brother of Rebecca, who married Isaac and bore Jacob. Laban welcomed his nephew and set him the stipulation of seven years’ labor before he permitted him to marry his daughter Rachel. Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his elder daughter Leah instead. Jacob then took both women as wives. Rachel was his favorite.
Rachel is one of the “four mothers” who are the ancestors of all the Israeli nation. In Hebrew the name “Rachel” means ewe. Rachel went into a difficult labor with her second son, Benjamin and died at the age of 36. Rachel was buried by Jacob on the road to Efrat, just outside Bethlehem and not in the ancestral tomb at Machpelah in Hebron.
Rachel’s Tomb today is located between Bethlehem and southern Jerusalem neighborhoods. The side is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
8 Amazing Facts About Rachel
#1 Rachel is a symbol of sacrifice and sharing
On Rachel wedding night, Laban replaced her with her sister Leah and Jacob couldn’t know because Rachel gave her sister the secret signs so she would not be ashamed. Rachel never mentioned that afterward.
#2 Rachel was a very courageous women
After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decided to return to the land of Canaan with his family. Laban pursued him and accused him of stealing his idols. Indeed, Rachel had taken her father’s idols, hidden them inside her camel’s seat cushion, and sat upon them.
#3 Rachel is the only Matriarch not buried in Hebron
Rachel was buried by Jacob on the road to Efrat, just outside Bethlehem and not in the ancestral tomb at Machpelah in Hebron.
#4 Israel never gave up on Rachel’s tomb
In 1995, prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Israeli government intended to transfer control of the tomb to the Palestinians, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin retreated in the wake of very heavy public pressure.
#5 Rachel’s Tomb is so important that it appears on a Christian map, the mosaic from Madaba from the 6th century
#6 Rachel’s Tomb has a special lock key:
In 1841, the tomb was renovated by Judith and Moses Montefiore adding another room and a keyed door. Two heavy, extra-long iron keys were cut in order to open it. The keys had special teeth, which were fitted with thin iron projections.
#7 Theodor Herzl visited Rachel Tomb although he came for a very short visit to Palestine.
#8 The only time in a 3500 years period when Jews couldn’t access Rachel’s Tomb
On November 29th 1947 following the partition plan and the transfer of Judea and Samaria to Jordan, the visits were not allowed despite the signed agreement. The access was renewed 19 years later following the 6 days war.