Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rachel's Tomb Attacked

Nadene Goldfoot
In the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE  lived Abraham, son of Terah and the Biblical patriarch of the Jewish people and many Arabs, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.  They  were the three very important men in the history of Jews.  Jacob was the father of 12 boys who in turn were the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.  Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Manasseh and Ephraim. Dinah was Jacob's daughter.

Jacob had worked for his Uncle Laban, who was the brother of Rebekah, wife of Isaac and lived at Haran in Aram-Naharaim.  He had seen Laban's daughter, Rachel and had fallen in love with her.  Laban said that if he worked for 7 years he could marry her, so he did.  The day came of the wedding, and he discovered that his bride was Rachel's older sister, Leah.  The excuse was that the custom calls for the oldest daughter to be married first.  A deal was made and Jacob worked another 7 years for Rachel's hand.  In all, we know that Leah became the mother of 6 of the boys and Rachel had 2.  She  was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.  Rachel's maid, Bilhah became the mother of Dan and Naphtali and Leah's maid, Zilpah became the mother of Gad and Asher.  

Rebekah and Rachel are two of the 4 matriarchs of the Jewish people.  Rachel  died near Bethlehem in giving birth to Benjamin. Now there is a tomb there, honoring her.  She is thought of as the compassionate mother who wept for her children when 10 of the tribes in Israel were driven into captivity in 722 BCE by the Assyrians, and again when Judah was attacked in the 597 and 586 BCE by the Babylonians.  In Jewish folklore, she is a favorite figure.

Bethlehem, now a Palestinian town,  is on the highway to Jerusalem, and I've gone through it many times. It's within 5.25 miles  south of Jerusalem and falls in Judah, which is a part of the contentious s"West Bank". Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David and the background of the Book of Ruth.  Christians consider Bethlehem the town of Jesus's birth.  In 1948 there were 10,000 people living here of which 7,500 were Christians and 2,500 were Muslims.  From 1948 to 1967 it was under Jordanian rule but captured by Israel in 1967 in the Six Day War.  Today, with a population of about 25,000 it is mostly all Muslim with only 15% being Christian. The city relies on tourism for its economy.  When riding a bus, it would stop here at a gift shop.

   I remember seeing IDF soldiers on the roofs guarding Bethlehem  when I lived in Israel from 1980-1985.  
Yesterday about 50 Arabs attacked the security forces guarding the compound at Rachel's Tomb, which is at the northern entrance.  They threw 9 pipe bombs, 18 fire bombs and rocks at the guards and injured one soldier.  One pipe bomb caused damage to the security wall around the complex.  The soldiers in turn were using riot dispersal gear against the attack.  The facility has been under increasingly repeated attacks recently as youths from the Palestinian Authority get close to the security fence and throw rocks and improvised explosive devices.

Soldiers have to prove that they are in a clear and present danger to their lives before they are allowed to open fire against attackers.  Who would expect that Rachel's Tomb would be a dangerous spot.  It's  a place where religious Jews go to pray and pay their respects. " Rachel's tomb is the third holiest site in Judaism.  Jews have made pilgrimage to the tomb since ancient times, and it has become one of the cornerstones of Jewish-Israeli identity.

Just in October  25th-28th  of 2012 there were 120,000 visitors expected to arrive at the tomb for the anniversary of her death.  We've had our state for 64 years and now in 2013 have to fight to see a tomb that lies 5 miles from Jerusalem.  .
Resource: from Arutz sheva: by Gil Ronen:  50 Arabs Attack Rachel's Tomb
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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