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Kever Rachel In Our Hands?

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        Those of us who made it to Kever Rachel Imeinu in the last six months found it almost unrecognizable. I have watched how hundreds of Jews have visited this Holy site despite difficulties in accessing it, spilling out their hearts to Ema Rochel and praying for her intervention with the Holy One in all areas of life. Rachel’s Tomb has been a place that pilgrims have visited for millennia and is dear to our people today as then. We must make sure that Kever Rachel is secured and thrives as it continues to be a place of  spiritual and strategic importance.
 
         In 1998 the Israeli government completed a fortified corridor that totally hides the original building we all remember so fondly, and now they have built a 25 foot high wall that encloses the complex. A special road, for Jewish use only, lined by the security wall on either side has been constructed from the Jerusalem border all the way to the Kever. The area outside the Kever has been tarred and prepared for vehicular access and new bathrooms have been built where the small army base used to be. This area is also surrounded by the wall. There are about seven watchtowers in the area manned 24/7 by border police guards.
 
         So Kever Rachel has been placed in a fortified enclave, with private road access and an unprecedented level of security.
 
         The question I ask is:
 
         Is it ours, but not in our hands, or is it in our hands, but not ours?
 
         There is no doubt in my mind that the answer is a combination of both. Kever Rachel is certainly ours and has been since Rochel died while giving birth to Binyamin as described in the book of Bereishis. But being ‘imprisoned’ in a walled enclave, that can be cut off or closed in an instant (as the IDF did on several occasions during the Oslo intifada) does not make it totally secure in our hands. On the other hand, we have full control of the complex, no Arabs can access it and there is strong security – so it is in our hands.
 
         Kever Rachel is Judaism’s third holiest site, has been visited by pilgrims for thousands of years, yet today you need a bullet proof vehicle to access it. Right now only a small minority of Jews visit this important site because of its cumbersome access, security concerns and because many Jews are simply unaware of the segula and importance of Kever Rachel. So can we really say it is ours?
 
         We can either accept the present situation, or we can turn Kever Rachel into the Holy Site it deserves to be with thousands of people visiting our Ema Rochel daily.
 
         How to change the reality?
 
         There is a solution!
 
         I have had the privilege of facilitating a group of motivated Jews in buying the property adjacent to Kever Rachel from its Arab owners. Details of this deal remain classified, but Jews now own an acre of land, including a 10,000 square foot building just footsteps away from Kever Rachel and well within the security wall surrounding the complex. Evelyn Haies, President of Rachel’s Children’s Reclamation Foundation has been a major force in helping make this a reality.
 
         We now have an opportunity to make an historic revolutionary change at Rachel’s Tomb – the establishment (on our property) of an educational campus, consisting of a visitors center and museum, a world bat mitzvah center and a yeshiva as well as a unique place to celebrate simchas in the building and it’s spacious yard.
 
         This will bring thousands of visitors to the site on a daily basis and give Rachel Imeinu some of the consolation for which she has been crying for centuries.
 
         By significantly increasing the number of people visiting the complex on a regular basis and by bringing a permanent Jewish presence to the area – we will be able to bring about a reality where Kever Rachel Imeinu will both be ours and in our hands!
 
         How to make this a reality:
 
         ·  We renovate and makeover the building on the property, it needs to be converted into a beautiful building serving the Jewish people. We are in advanced stages of negotiations with the IDF to finalize starting the work.
 
         ·  We raise sufficient funds to renovate the building and furnish it with the materials, staff and exhibits needed to facilitate the programs.
 
         ·  We carry out a major marketing and publicity campaign, both in Israel and the Diaspora, bringing this new message of hope and success and the incredible educational and spiritual opportunities available at Rachel’s Tomb.
 
         How you can help:
 
         ·  Come and visit Kever Rachel with us when you visit Israel. Join one of our tours, see details on our website. As Evelyn says: A visit to Israel without visiting Kever Rachel Imeinu is like going home and not visiting your mother. Encourage your friends and family to visit too.
 
         ·  Give financial support and encourage others to do so.
 
         ·  Be in contact with the Rachel Imeinu Foundation and tell us how you can help.
 
         Our Mother Rachel gave up being buried in Hebron so that she could return us to our borders in Eretz Yisrael – let us do what we can to return, with honor, to hers.
 

         For more information go to chaim@rachelimeinu.org  or www.rachelimeinu.org.

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About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. For more information on keeping Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty, check out www.keepjerusalem.org


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