Visit to Rachel’s tomb

Its a while since I have done some exploring of places from the bible.  As I am at the end of the my second season I thought I would make up for lost time and see some places.

The weekend before last I try to get to Rachel’s tomb which is on the Israel/Palestinian security gate that goes between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem.   This was something of a ‘ballagan’ (Hebrew for chaos, I am not sure if I wrote the Romanised spelling right 🙂 ) as I spent ages finding it, and seem to get different answers from everyone I asked.   I gave up and went home, and came back the following weekend.

This time I was given a different method to get into Rachel’s tomb.   At one specific gate into the border, intended for cars.  I had my passport checked along with this Asian-Canadian girl who was also going this way I was chatting  to.

I was asked by the guards, “are you a Jew?”  in which I replied no I was a Christian. “But you don’t wear a cross?” I was asked.   Maybe I should get one I guess.

I was told I could not travel by foot the 100 yards or so through the border, but he pointed to this blue Subaru driven by a religious Jew and told me to get in, I said I don’t know this guy, do you know him?   “its ok, he is a Jew, just get in!”   I was kind of shocked that the guards asked me to get in a stranger’s car, but I did it anyway and so do this girl.  The road winds in a sort of S shape in between the tall concrete walls of the Israeli/Palestinian border.   Unlike other parts of this wall as its so well guarded there is no graffiti here.  After only a minute of a very short ride, the car stops right outside Rachel’s Tomb.

In the historical building itself, the building is heavily disguised in concrete being sandwiched in between the high security walls.

Once in, I don’t see much historical information in English outside the tomb itself.   Inside there is a longish corridor and then a partition which guides men and women into separate parts of the room.

When I go in its full of Orthodox Jews praying reading the scriptures, one of the reminds me I should have a kippor on, so he lends me one, and I decided to sit on a chair and pray for a bit.   It doesn’t seem right to take photos or explore a bit, so I leave.   The room feels the same as the archway next to the Kotel.

I was a little disappointed, as there was not much to read on history.  There really isn’t anything of interest to casual tourists.   Nevertheless its was exciting to see another place of the bible and see religious Jews visiting who value its sacredness.

Back outside, behind this unusual looking wall is some quite pleasant public toilets and a car park.

I take a wander down a short road which goes to a dead end to another vehicle sized gate.   There is construction work here, but in an empty square of land here nestled between the two security walls, so neither housing for Jews or Palestinians, more like extra offices or facilities for the border security.

On the way out of the border, I realised there was a bus service.  This bus does’nt go right through the border, instead it goes just to Rachel’s Tomb, thus not requiring a lengthy security check to get back.   There isn’t any kind of queueing, instead everyone just piles on, I let the women holding babies go on first.   I am not allowed to use my normal (Egged) bus pass for some reason, so it just requires me to pay 4.20 Shekels for this ride.   Religious women make up the majority of folks on this bus ride.   I can only get off about 1km away from the border, necessitating a short walk back to collect my bicycle.

I was reading this passage in the bible which talks about this place.  Genesis 35:16-21  16 – “Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty.  And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”  As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.   But his father named him Benjamin.   So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).  Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.  Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.”

This particular place is the centre point of news this month as the UN, Palestinian Authority and the Turkish Prime Minister have been saying the Rachel’s Tomb is a Mosque, see

I saw this quote from Christians Standing for Israel blog on Rachel’s tomb:- “You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar or a learned archaeologist to recognize the long-standing and incontestably Jewish nature of Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Arguing otherwise is akin to asserting that the earth is flat, Elvis is still alive and the moon is made of cheese, and that is how the Palestinian claims should be viewed.”

Because of the not so conventional method of passing through security, I can’t offer any advice on how to get through the border, you will need your passport and its a simple case of heading south from Hevron Road from Jerusalem southwards.   There is not a huge amount to see so I think its best left for bible history adventurers to do as something on the way to or from Bethlehem.  Right: coaches arriving from the Jerusalem side.

Tip:  if you want to converse with anyone, Jew or Arab to find directions to Rachel’s tomb, try pronouncing it like the French, ‘Raquel’  there is a better chance they will understand you.

Riding to work – commuting Jerusalem style Part 3

first bit –  second section –  Third and final


Turn right from Jaffa Street…

At the top of this street is a Russian-Orthodox church dedicated in 1872 by Prince Niklai, it served a religious centre for Russian pilgrims in late 19th century.
The road turns to the left past the police station.Here, I am looking directly behind me I can see the police station, there are lots of police officers and soldiers here, so I didn’t do any pictures of the outside as I don’t think this would be popular.

I took this pic with my phone months ago.  The police station has its own outside mini archeology site, this looks like part of a plumbing system, but actually its a pillar on its side.  Not sure which age this is.

This part of the police compound was also originally owned by Russians as you can see from the Cyrillic writing top right.

This is an opticians, one of the nice modern buildings I have seen.   The outside stairs makes it a little bit lego like 🙂

This roundabout has a takeaway, a corner shop and a bakery that is popular with our office.

Turn left by the tree and up the drive way, and I am at work….

first bit –  second section –  Third and final

King David Museum, Hezekiah’s tunnels and Silwan troubles

At the weekend I went around the outer parts of Jerusalem’s old city walls.   Outside of the dung gate, is the south east corner, you head around the corner to see Absalom’s tomb and the Mount of Olives.

Here there is a junction which contains a volatile mix of neighbours.   On the corner is an archaeological dig, containing artifacts that date from King David’s time.   On the same street this is the entrance to the Arab town of Silwan.   This is a much troubled district, and the name Silwan often comes up when there is news of conflicts in this city.

On the news this week you may have seen a picture of a car with a boy in the air upside down in the air having being hit by a car in Silwan after stoning this particular motorist, it seems the Subaru driver sped up or swerved to avoid being hit by the youths.   Seems strange there happened to be someone with a camera who did such a perfect shot of this moment.

A few houses from the corner is this Arab shop with political message outside.

About 3 or 4 more houses across is The City of David museum which has a cinema with a 3D film of biblical history of this place and a guided tour of the buildings and a chance to go under Hezekiah’s tunnels.  I went here last year its well worth a visit.   The tunnels are a mile long of walking – in complete darkness; and, upto your knees in water. 🙂   I didn’t get a picture of the exact front part of this as there armed guards in front.   But looking through the windows you can see the nice decorations outside.

Looking behind back to the old city walls and there are about 40-50 soldiers in uniform getting off a bus.  (not visible, but just around the corner)  Glancing back to the museum front, there is a lone security guard, armed, but unusually (that I have never seen someone holding a handgun out of a holster) he has a pistol in his hand.   Again, I glance down the street to see a group of Arab kids gather outside a shop.  There is nervousness on both sides and the police and army are on alert from recent troubles.

Below you can see the green flag which has a logo representing Israel’s national parks and historical places.  Heading down this street as a foreigner to see the museums is safe but because extra security measures in place, but just a short distance down here, not past the museum where this barrier is.   Beyond this there are rowdy children throwing rocks at the fence where the historical digging is, there is rubbish everywhere and some of the cars look vandalised.

But here in the unpredictable middle east, throwing rocks can be a prelude to starting a war where each side retaliates.  This is one of the many contested bits of property here, ironic given the historic sites and archeological digs that showed who lived here long ago.

I can’t emphasise enough “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and I do feel sorry for the Arab people that live here and are given different messages by different authorities, I hope and pray that Arab people will find their way out of darkness of the regime that governs them (Hamas and Hezbollah)  into the loving arms of the Father.

Caves in park in Yemin Moshe behind King David hotel

Behind King David Hotel is some more archeology.

Just realised this tomb has a circular stone rolled next to it.  Look hard and you can see this tomb has an iron door too, which is locked.

This one is nearby, different to the one shown in the above three pics.  Doesn’t have an obvious entrance.

Not sure who these tombs belonged to, or how old they are.   Suggestions please?

Widow’s mite coins for sale

This shop sells coins based in Luke 21:2-4 about the story of the Widow’s copper coins she gave to the temple treasury.

I was on the way to church coming back from the Kotel, so I didn’t get to properly see this shop, but I imagine these coins offered could be genuine as there is an abundance of history under the ground that has been discovered all over Israel.

These sorts of antiquities stores are pretty unusual as they sell jewelery made from pieces of Roman glass found in archelogical sites.  Some of these stores actually fashion pieces of glass that are cut and filed to shape and set in broaches, necklaces etc.