“The singing, the dancing, the euphoria, everyone knew this sefer Torah was headed for Israel and the joy was simply contagious.”
Evelyn shows me the photographs. You see the smiling crowds and the rav with the Torah and her husband next to him, each picture a memory unto itself.
Since that day Evelyn arranges a special dinner each Parshas Lech Lecha in memory of the extra special day in her life.
After the event one of the attendees approached Evelyn and told her that he had his own personal connection with Rachel Imeinu:
“I come from a family who for seven generations has held the keys to Kever Rachel” he began, a note of pride in his voice. With that he offered to donate to the festivities. He too wanted a share in this wondrous event.
The Hachanasas Sefer Torah at Kever Rachel was no less moving, perhaps even more so. On duty soldiers, rabbanim and politicians all took part in the event.
Since that day Evelyn has done all she can to improve Kever Rachel. Many recall the days when getting there was incredibly difficult. There was no organized transportation and so Evelyn petitioned Egged to arrange for regular daily buses. And when the Intifada began and people were afraid to come, it was Evelyn who organized and paid for buses to ferry people to and fro.
Evelyn works hard, very hard.
“When in Israel, I literally work round the clock ensuring that people continue coming on a regular basis, that they have easy access to the site and that there are regular shiurim taking place. And even when I get back to the U.S. I don’t stop for a minute. There are funds to raise and arrangement to made, it’s non-stop.”
Here Evelyn stops talking and takes a minute to remember Sarah Blaustien from Efrat. Sarah was a regular attendee of the shuirim at Kever Rachel and had become Evelyn’s dear friend. One morning after returning from Kever Rachel and heading back out to go to the Kotel she was shot at by a group of Arabs. She and another female passenger were killed.
“Every year on her yahrzeit we learn and say tehillim in her memory. My plan is to, one day, dedicate a room in her memory as well.”
I take note for even though I’ve only known Evelyn for a couple of hours I realize that if she sets her mind to doing something, no doubt, that something, is sure to happen. Someday, somehow, in the future there will be a Sarah Blaustein room…of that I am certain.
Evelyn is somber “we’d become really close, I still miss her…”
But Sarah’s murder hasn’t stopped Evelyn or even slowed her down. She’s gone out of her way to take care of the soldiers on guard, sending them treats as well as Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. In addition she’s organized and paid for numerous brisim and sheva brachos that have taken place at the site.
“The real breakthrough took place eleven years ago,” and out comes the photo album, “I was approached and offered the house adjacent to Kever Rachel. It is the one and only other structure in the complex and the Arab who owned it wanted to sell out.
“They knew me and they knew that I was an inseparable part of the place. But the price they were asking was $375,000 – a small fortune – and I had no idea how to raise the kind of money. Nevertheless, in my heart of hearts I knew that going ahead with the deal was the right thing to do. I knew that Hashem would take of the details.”
And she was right.
“I had bought stock a number of months prior to the offer and it had jumped in value by 1000%. I sold it and divided the money. Some of the money went to my children, the rest towards buying the house. Other factions helped make up the deficit.”
Evelyn received the key and went about making improvements – as she had done in all other areas.