I recently visited the Tomb of Rachel also known as Kever Rachel, located just south of Jerusalem in “Area C,” near the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in “Area A,” which denotes full Palestinian control. Kever Rachel has been identified as the place where the Matriarch Rachel was interred and has been revered by Jews for centuries, though Palestinians and their eager apologists now claim it as a site exclusively holy to Muslims.
As I was exiting, I couldn’t help but recall the stark contrast between how the place used to look like before Israel transferred control of Bethlehem to Yasser Arafat’s PA. Back then, it was a quaint, simple structure with a white dome and large menorah perched on the rooftop. Entrance to the site was made through a gate that was flanked by two impressive Ottoman Sebils. Hanging above the gate was a sign in Hebrew that said “Kever Rachel Imeinu,” which translates to the Tomb of Rachel our Mother.
Today, the original structure is entombed in a fortress-like building and is virtually unrecognizable. The change was made necessary due to several violent attempts by Palestinians to ransack the place and harm visiting Jewish worshipers. Their desire to destroy the site is rather ironic given their claim that Kever Rachel is a holy Muslim site.
In 1995, Israel transferred control of Bethlehem to the Arafat and his gang of gunmen in the misguided belief that they were dealing with rational people. Rachel’s Tomb however, perched just on the outskirts of Bethlehem, was retained by Israel. Concurrent with this transfer, Israel ceded control of the city of Shechem (Nablus) as well. Within Shechem was another site holy to Jews known as Kever Yosef or the Tomb of Joseph, believed by some to be Joseph’s final resting place. Palestinians claim this site to be holy to them as well but evidence for this remains scant.
Kever Yosef, which housed a synagogue was also retained by Israel, and a small force of Israeli troops was garrisoned there to protect the site and ensure the safety of worshipers. But in October 2000, following an outbreak of extreme Palestinian violence, Israel ceded Kever Yosef to the PA in a misguided effort to placate the rioters. Predictably, Palestinian rioters then stormed the tomb, destroying fixtures and torching prayer books. They then proceeded to paint its white-domed roof green, symbolizing the completion of the Islamic takeover.
Kever Yosef reverted to Israeli control two years later following Operation Defensive Shield, and sporadic Jewish worship there resumed shortly thereafter, albeit under heavy armed guard and usually at night. Unlike Kever Rachel, Kever Yosef is situated in a strategically more precarious position as it is ensconced in Shechem while Kever Rachel remains on the outskirts of Bethlehem and has been walled off from the city.
On April 9, 2022, Palestinian rioters, enraged over yet another imaginary transgression, stormed Kever Yosef and caused severe damage. The tombstone was shattered, electrical fixtures were ripped out and prayer books were burned. The action was carried out in full view of Palestinian “policemen” who did nothing to stop the hooliganism and may have even encouraged it. Israeli repair crews, under the protection of the Israeli Defense Forces, repaired the damage a few days later.
This is the Palestinian modus operandi, a deleterious pattern that demonstrates an utter contempt for antiquity and religious sites. On October 12, 2000, Palestinian rioters in Jericho stormed an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue known as the “Shalom Al Israel Synagogue,” with the intent to destroy its well-preserved central medallion bearing the inscription “Shalom al Israel.” They failed to destroy the precious mosaic floor but that does not negate the nefarious intent. When the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem fell to Jordanian/Palestinian forces in 1948, all Jewish institutions – including the impressive Hurva Synagogue – were either dynamited or converted to garbage dumps or animal pens.
In this regard, the Palestinians have shown themselves to be no different than the Taliban and ISIS. in 2001, the Taliban destroyed the one-of-a-kind Bamiyan Buddha statues in the name of religion. Then in 2015, ISIS destroyed the ancient & irreplaceable antiquities at Palmyra, also in the name of religion. Palestinian vandalism at Joseph’s Tomb, and their efforts to destroy other culturally and religiously important sites, also in the name of Islam, reveals their true colors.
Palestinian apologists predictably remained mute in the face of the latest Palestinian outrage at Joseph’s Tomb. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, organizations all too willing to spread antisemitic blood libels against the Jewish State, did not utter a single word of condemnation.
Joseph’s Tomb, Rachel’s Tomb, the Hurva and Jericho Synagogues were not symbols of the so-called occupation. They were symbols of Judaism and that was enough to rouse the ire of those bent on genocide and ethnic cleansing. A society that maintains a near-maniacal intolerance and hatred for other religions or cultures, and acts upon that hatred in a violent and destructive manner, is undeserving of statehood.