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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Tales of Rachel’s Tomb, a Strange Fire, the Golden Graft, the True Foundation

A Jewish woman prays beside Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.

A Jewish woman prays beside Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.
Photo Credit: Sharon Perry/Flash90

BREAKING NEWS:  An illegal and unauthorized group tried to forcibly enter Beit Bnei Rachel in the Rachel Tomb walled complex today, reported Dov Shurin, a radio host who serves as the house manager.  The police were forced to respond and prevent the trespass, as the group which has made previous attempts to remove any trace of the rightful owner of the building, Rachel’s Children Reclamation Foundation (RCRF), continued in their efforts to destroy the foundation. The group accosted one of the women who studies with RCRF for the building key and resorted to trying to break the locks on the back door to enter the building. The group tried to break in again with an axe at  1:30am Israel time and the police have responded again. Damages to doors today are $1000. Damages since their occupation are immeasurable.

The police ultimately denied access to the unauthorized group and instructed them that they must take all of their claims to court.  This sends a strong message to the group that has long evaded the legal process that they cannot continue their strong-arm tactics and invade the property that was purchased by RCRF in 2001.

Despite today’s confrontation, Dov Shurin announced that all RCRF activities will continue as they have for the past decade and encouraged the public to come to Beit Lechem to study, pray, and learn the ancient but timely lessons of Rachel Imeinu.

_________________ Rachel Imeinu, the Jewish Mother par excellence, was – according to Biblical sources – buried “on the way” from Jerusalem to Hebron, in Bethlehem to plead for her children going into exile and to welcome them back upon their return. Bethlehem was the home of Boaz, Ruth, Naomi, and King David. King Solomon exempted the residents of Bethlehem from taxes because of his personal attachment to the place where King David was a shepherd and wrote the Tehillim that we read with passion today when we encounter problems and the need for tikkun. Rachel has always been a symbol of the unity of the Jewish people, whose sacrifice on behalf of her sister has inspired Jewish women to emulate her as a role model.

Helping to protect and reclaim the burial site of Rachel Imeinu became my mission in 1995.  I formed Rachel’s Children Reclamation Foundation (RCRF), a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation when Rachel’s Tomb was on the Oslo chopping block. Some government officials suggested giving away Rachel’s Tomb (“Kever Rachel”) or even moving it. Klal Yisrael rallied; Rabbi Menachem Porush and Chanan Porat cried. My organization was instrumental in having hundreds of petitions, proclamations from US officials, as well as children’s letters sent daily in support of retaining Rachel’s Tomb for the Jewish people. PM Rabin responded to the outcry by adding an amendment to the September 28, 1995 Oslo Agreement that put Rachel’s Tomb in area C, completely under Israel control as part of the larger designated area which reaches beyond the area where the separation fence was constructed.

On the day of PM Rabin’s Assassination, 50,000 people were visiting Ima Rachel’s kever on her yahrzeit. On that weekend, I chaired a 3-day Conference of the Women’s Branch of the OU in Washington, DC. The theme of the event was “Breaking the Silence” and the theme song, “We are Rachel’s Children” was introduced that day.

From rallying Rachel’s children to reclaim their identity and holy roots, to purchasing and delivering a Sefer Torah to the empty un-walled streets in front of Rachel’s Tomb, to petitioning to have regular scheduled trips of Egged buses eight times daily, RCRF now finds itself in a dilemma: whether to be silent like Rachel or cry like Rachel. I have learned to have savlanut, patience, but during  the last year and a half conditions at the property for which my foundation provided the majority of funds to purchase and establish Beit Bnei Rachel adjacent to Kever Rachel have continually deteriorated. This has required me to deal with one obstacle after another. I have given not just money, but my heart and soul, and my activities are for all Bnei Rachel.  I work five months a year in Israel doing programming, events, and teaching Derech Eretz in the Rachel’s Tomb complex. While in America I work many hours throughout the night coordinating with the staff and officials in Israel. We had the most lofty dreams when we partnered together to build the Rachel’s Tomb complex, and my foundation originally purchased the valuable property next to Kever Rachel to build a Beit Bnei Rachel in partnership with a group that contributed no funds, but was responsible for purchasing, maintaining and improving the property and assisting us in realizing our dream and establishing a proper yeshivah at the site. The leaders of that group have seemingly abandoned those ideals in an attempt to seize title and control of the valuable land adjacent to Kever Rachel.

The dreams and goals of my foundation that led us to buy the property in 2001 included: (1) Making a Bayit, a building to fulfill the “Rachel Prophesy” and solidify our borders of Torah, midos, and the Land; (2) Establishing a Museum of Jewish Aliyah and Visitors Center; (3) Establishing an institute for women’s learning; (4) Establishing a men’s yeshiva or kollel that would learn and emulate Derech Eretz; (5) Building a banquet hall for life cycle events and organizational functions; (6) Arranging for shiurim and lectures for large organizations, such as the OU, Emunah, NCSY, JOLT, including lunch and learning sessions in the Reception Center; (7) Arranging for schools to visit in order to impress upon young students the connection of the Kever to the Jewish people, our ancestors, and their lessons for living  and meriting the Land of Israel. In the past, we have been in all of these endeavors. We held Biblical Art exhibits, as well as classes, seminars, and lecture series presenting the history, holy sites, places of aliyah, and midos of our people. The Israeli army, which grants permits for activities in the Kever Rachel area, graciously helped us mount the museum displays.  In the past, RCRF ran two kollels with wonderful rabbis who donated the mechitzas, book cases, shtenders, and even enlarged the doorway and installed the front door to permit  our new fire-proof safe for the Torahs to be installed in the building.

RCRF, my foundation, provided all of the funds to purchase this building, which I believed was the beginning of a true partnership with that group and an investment in this property in order to fulfill the seven goals enumerated above, as a legacy to all of Klal Yisrael in memory of my parents. RCRF agreed to invest in three American corporations that were set up with the sole purpose of purchasing and reclaiming a property adjacent to Kever Rachel and developing it to meet the above goals. In fact, the trustees, who were responsible for purchasing the property in the name of the entities controlled by my organization, failed to live up to their legal obligations and instead registered the property in their own names and have consistently impeded any effort to rectify the problems. To date, these individuals have not delivered the deeds of the property to the corporations that purchased them.

Despite years of legal wrangling and the firing of the trustees for their misuse of the funds for the project, these individuals are now attempting to wrest control of the property from its rightful owners. They have been able to install themselves as rosh yeshiva and director of the property through dubious insider dealings that effectively cut RCRF out of the property. Now they are attempting to physically exclude my organization from the property and stop us from performing the wonderful work that we have been doing at Kever Rachel for years.

Although RCRF has continued to have multiple weekly events at Beit Bnei Rachel, including lectures as well as periodic events such as art exhibits, Bat Mitzvahs, an upshurin, a brit milah and other life cycle events, and donated a Sefer Torah for use in the building, the fulfillment of its goals have been impeded by a group that has been operating in the building without authorization.  This group, led by a former minister of tourism who was involved in the project from the beginning but has recently been working to change the direction of the project and controlling the valuable property, have engaged in a campaign clearly designed to delegitimize me and my claim to majority ownership of the corporation that should rightfully hold the title and ownership to the property.  This group’s hypocritical and illegal acts that have intentionally interfered with the work of my organization include:

A. Taunting and physically intimidating me and the participants at my organization’s activities.

B. Locking away chairs and tables and carting them away from the building when I arranged special events such as a brit milah or upshurin.

C. Locking various portions of the interior of the building to prevent our access to those areas.

D. Repeatedly taking down our organization’s presentations from the interior wall panels

E. Removing the organization’s Biblical Art Display and even the hooks from which they were professionally hung.

F  Making unauthorized building alterations after letters prohibiting any such rights.

G. Removing sinks and a bathroom.

H. Threatening to damage artwork of an exhibiting artist who I retained.

I.   Removing memorial plaques dedicated to the memory of my parents.

J.  Moving the Sefer Torah out of the Beit Medrash. The Sefer Torah was donated in 2005 to my organization in a RCRF-paid for celebration with hundreds of participants, including the former Rosh Yeshiva of Beit Orot, Rabbi Elkanan Bin Nun.

K. Jamming and changing the locks to the entrances of the building in order to deny access to my organization and the participants who attend its events.

L. Removing every memento of activities of RCRF.

As women, mothers, and grandmothers from Israel and abroad, we have been actively working with the army and the public, for over ten years to make this a place for Bnei Rachel, all Rachel’s Children,  and a place for the teaching of Derech Eretz.  I am disclosing the facts and the issues and seeking the support of the thousands who have shared and benefitted from RCRF efforts.

In order to continue our programs we need your letters of support as well as your physical participation in our activities and financial support to continue the legal battle to have legal title and ownership to Beit Bnei Rachel properly recorded as those who invested the funds for the purchase of the property and have pledged to continue the dream of developing Beit Bnei Rachel and the activities that will help bring the geulah. Remember, at the beginning there was only one daily bus from Jerusalem to Kever Rachel which averaged only four passengers. When the route was in danger of being discontinued, I publicized this fact and the amount of passengers immediately increased 800%, and the route was saved. I continued to obtain petitions for the Egged #163 bus, and now there are eight daily double public buses between Jerusalem and Kever Rachel. I have been petitioning for even more frequent buses to enable people to pray at Kever Rachel for longer periods of time and enable even more people to attend the activities in our building. I have also been instrumental in linking a young man who wanted to walk to Kever Rachel with HaRav Menachem Porush, OBM. We may not be walking yet, but because of Rav Porush, OBM, and the young man, we are now able to drive directly to the Kever Rachel complex. Daily attendance at the Kever Rachel Complex is steadily increasing and is giving new meaning to the word “foundation.” Join us and help us work together to reclaim and  rebuild. It says on the RCRF Torah, “The roots of the past are the foundation of the future.” Come see our fig tree and pomegranate tree that we planted so many years ago, blooming in our backyard. Come learn about our tradition’s ancient truths for remedying the modern day problems we are suffering. Come make this the show place of our true foundation, Ima Rachel, a role model for the whole world. “Remember, a visit to Israel without going to Kever Rachel is like going home without seeing your mother.”

Any financial support should be sent to RCRF, 60 West End Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235. All contributions to this 501(c)(3) charitable corporation are tax deductible and will be used for the foundation’s efforts to develop and maintain Beit Bnei Rachel and to bring Derech Eretz to the world through the legacy of Rachel Imeinu

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A Jewish woman prays beside Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.

From rallying Rachel’s children to reclaim their identity and holy roots, to purchasing and delivering a Sefer Torah to the empty un-walled streets in front of Rachel’s Tomb, to petitioning to have regular scheduled trips of Egged buses eight times daily, Rachel’s Children Reclamation Foundation now finds itself in a dilemma: whether to be silent like Rachel or cry like Rachel.

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