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Monday, July 21, 2008

Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb)

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי תַמְרוּרִים
רָחֵל, מְבַכָּה עַל-בָּנֶיהָ; מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל-בָּנֶיהָ, כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ

So God said: A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation, and bitter weeping;
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are absent. (Jeremiah 31:14)

For years now, I have wanted to visit Kever Rachel.

A few years ago, "they" built this big new complex.

I was curious how it looks.

I remember Kever Rachel as a small, rather run-down, old building. I was there almost 25 years ago (when I first came to Israel). Back then, visiting Kever Rachel was an educational experience, not a political statement.

I am not big on davening (praying) at k'varot (gravesites). I do not need some dead person to act as my "intermediary", even if he/she was a really important person when he/she was a living person. (Except for my grandmother, who I believe is up in heaven, looking over me and making a lot of noise on my behalf!)

Moreover, I know that historically, it is unlikely that Kever Rachel is really Kever Rachel. (Though the tradition of that location probably dates back to the time of the Crusaders).

Nevertheless, do not try and take it away from me and my people!

As soon as it became difficult to go to Kever Rachel, it became important to davka go to Kever Rachel. But getting there is not so easy anymore. You can no longer just hop in your car and go.

Again, my friend MG, who is visiting from the US, wanted to go. So, I decided to go with her.

I could not take MD with me, 'cause he is a Cohen. But I did take A.

A few minutes after boarding the bus, we passed through a checkpoint and entered a concrete corridor. A minute later, the bus stopped opposite the entrance of a large building with a façade of Jerusalem stone. Across the street, a flowered traffic circle, and an empty parking lot, beckoned for cars that no longer come.

We entered the complex. Our footsteps echoed along the marble hallway.

There inner room was crowded; there was no where to sit. A did not feel like reciting Tehillim (Psalms) or her morning prayers. Instead, she said a short personal prayer. Then we went and sat in the larger, outer room.

"Are you always going to have cancer?" my sweet and innocent 10 year old asked quietly, as soon as we sat down.

We spoke about God and miracles.

We also spoke about living with cancer.

My heart felt like it was breaking.

I could not protect my little girl from the pain and sorrow, even though I was trying so hard.

I felt grateful that she felt comfortable asking the question. She is so acquiescing, so accepting. Yet, clearly, she is also sad and hurting.

Then, just as suddenly, A started talking about something else. I was a little surprised at how quickly she changed topics. But she was done, and moving on. So, I did too (at least on the outside).

A few minutes later, A went to get some water, and I went inside the inner room and recited some Tehillim. She joined me for a few minutes. When MG finished davening, we all left to catch the next bus.

For those who are interested: There is a subsidized bus (Egged #163), that runs along Derech Hevron. The round trip costs only 7.50 NIS, from anywhere along the line.

On the way home, MG explained the significance of Kever Rachel to A.

"Rachel," she explained, "is the spiritual mother of the Jewish people. Rachel suffered her entire life. Rachel grew up among idol worshipers; she delayed marrying her love, so that her elder sister could marry first; she died in childbirth, after her second son was born; she never lived to see her children grow up. Because of her suffering, Rachel's prayers are powerful. We hope that by praying at her tomb, our prayers will join hers. We hope that God will pay special attention to our prayers, because we are praying together with Rachel Imeinu (Rachel, our mother)."

We were on a bus full of religious people, mostly women, many of whom regularly pray at Kever Rachel. No demonstrations. No slogans. Just simple religious people on a spiritual quest. The passengers spoke in hushed tones, as though still within the prayer halls.

We left behind the large, beautiful complex, with marble halls and a façade of Jerusalem stone. The bus lumbered through the silent corridor, lined with towering concrete walls.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Baila said...

Beautifully written.

Daveda said...

I have been reading your blog for a little while now and I am always so amazed at the courage, strength and poise of your family but especially your young children. It is obvious that they are learning by your and your husband's example. This particular post really touched close to home and I appreciate you sharing it with us. Only the best,