Rachel's Tomb

Horn, Rachel's Tomb

Remnants of the first aqueduct lay in an abandoned cave some 400 m. from the cross road to Hebron; remnants of the second one, also not far from Rachel’s tomb, behind the houses in the triangle formed by the fork of the road.

Finally we find ourselves in front of Rachel’s tomb, Qubbet Rahil, immed¬iately north of the Hebron forking. “Thus Rachel died; and she was buried on the road to Efrath, that is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a memorial stone on her grave, and the same monument marks Rachel’s grave to this day” (Gn 35, 19 20).

The earliest testimonies speak of a monument formed by a simple pyramid, which remembered the nefes of Judaic tombs. Later on (1165) twelve stones were added, in memory of Jacob’s twelve sons; however, some chronicles speak of eleven stones only: the stone of Benjamin would have been missing. In Byzantine times and probably also later on, Rachel’s tomb must have been transformed into a Christian place of worship.

The Lectionary of Jerusalem (5th 8th cent.) enters two official liturgical commemorations (20 February, and 18 July). The Georgian Palestinian Calendar (according to the Sinaiticus Code 34 of the 10th cent.) clearly refers to a ‘Church of Rachel’ in speaking of the same commemorations.

In the 14th cent. the tomb was embellished and an imposing sarco¬phagus with a convex top was added. Fr. Amico has left us a drawing where we see the cenotaph in the middle of a chapel. In the four side walls there were archways. These were walled in by Mohammed Pasha of Jerusalem (1560) who, moreover, replaced the pyramid with a dome.

In the 19th cent. Moses Montefiore added two rooms to the primitive square vestibule thus giving the tomb the appearance it still maintains today. Actually, rather than of a tomb one should speak of a weli, Moslem funereal monument built to remember a saint or a remarkable person. Although Jews, Christians and Moslems venerate the memory of Rachel here, yet many doubts are raised about the authenticity of the site.

St. Jerome was the first to raise them; he expressed the idea that this was the tomb built for Archaelaus, Herod the Great’s son, tetrarch of Judea. Archaelaus, however, died in Vienne (southeastern France) and was not translated here. The topic has been examined time and again; recently Fr. G. Lombardi ofm raised it once more.

After carefully analyzing the Biblical texts referring to Efrath, he reached the conclusion that Rachel’s tomb is near Hizmeh, north of Jerusalem, where there are five sepulchral monuments known under the name of ‘Tombs of Israel’s Children’. Near Rachel’s tomb four more women of the same tribe should be buried. In any case the hypothesis cannot be discarded that Archaelaus’ tomb was actually built not far from Rachel’s tomb and that tradition has united the two remembrances.

Today the tomb is located near the wall of division of Israeli territory from the Palestinian and can be visited only by permission.


Shepherds' Field

The Milk Grotto

House of Saint Joseph

Cisterns of David

Hortus conclusus


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