Rachel weeping for her children-Poem by Sofia Kioroglou

The Blue Nib

Rachel weeping for her children
By Sofia Kioroglou

I remember laughter rippling around the streets

amber of eyes aglow, brimming with hope
children cutting a caper impishly in Aleppo
dad squinting at my fiddling around with his computer
Today, our shoulders are hunched with fear
kids no longer splashing in puddles
knee-deep in rubble and smeared with blood
hollering out war cries, looking for relatives
Some crucified, others beheaded
no hearse waiting to deliver our people to burial places
Rachel weeping for her children
rising out like a phoenix, splintering husks of shells around
Walking through the cemetery while a couple
are muttering into their swirling Chardonnay
two words collide, two paths diverge
the road to hell is paved with good intentions

A few words about Rachel

Rachel's Tomb (Hebrew: Kever Rachel) is a Jewish sacred site located between Jerusalemand Bethlehem in the West Bank. It is also a significant historical and religious site for Muslims and Christians.

History of Tomb of Rachel

This site is believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of two of his twelve sons. She died giving birth to Benjamin and "Jacob set a pillar upon her grave" (Gen. 35:19).

For Jews, Rachel's Tomb is the third holiest site after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. It has become an important place of Jewish pilgrimage, especially Jewish women unable to give birth.

Jewish tradition has it that Rachel weeps for her children and that when the Jews were taken into exile, she wept as they passed by her grave on the way to Babylon (Jeremiah 31:11-16).

The structure on the site, a cube topped by a dome, was built around 1620 by the Ottoman Turks. It was lengthened in 1860 by Sir Moses Montefiore.

In the 1990's, due to the deteriorating security situation, the original domed structure was fortified and enclosed inside a building with a hall from the entrance. Recently, the site has been surrounded by a barrier to separate it from Bethlehem.

What to See at Tomb of Rachel

The site consists of a rock with eleven stones upon it, one for each of the eleven sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth. Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. The large tomb is now covered by a velvet drape.

Today, the site is very close to the checkpoint from the Palestinian territories into Israel. The original tomb, a rectangular structure with a white dome, has been enclosed inside a fortress, complete with guard tower, soldiers and barbed wire.

Getting There

Rachel's Tomb is difficult to visit because of its location near the Israel/West Bank border, but many still manage to visit this important sacred site. Only bullet-proof buses are allowed direct access to Rachel's Tomb.

There are 6 buses a day leaving from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem; the 163 bus goes to Rachel's Tomb. Consult a local tour guide or tourist office for the latest information.

Prayer at Rachel's Cenotaph

Credit: Committee for Rachel's Tomb / www.rachelstomb.org


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