‘Islamic site’? Thousands of Jews pray at Rachel’s Tomb
Rachel’s Tomb (Hebrew: קבר רחל‎ translit. Kever Rakhel), (Arabic: قبر راحيل‎),[1] is the site revered as the burial place of the Hebrew matriarch Rachel. The tomb, located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem, is considered holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Since the 1990s[2] the site has been referred to by Muslims as the Bilal bin Rabah mosque (Arabic: مسجد بلال بن رباح‎).[3][4] The burial place of the matriarch Rachel as mentioned in the Jewish Tanach and Christian Old Testament, and in Muslim literature[5] is contested between this site and several others to the north — though this site is by far the most recognized candidate.[6] The earliest extra-biblical records describing this tomb as Rachel’s burial place date to the first decades of the 4th century CE. The structure in its current form dates from the Ottoman period, and there is an Ottoman-period cemetery near the site.[7] When Sir Moses Montefiore renovated the site in 1841 and gave the keys to the Jewish community, he also added an antechamber including a mihrab for Muslim prayer to as conciliation.[8][9] According to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, the tomb was to be part of the internationally administered zone of Jerusalem, but the area was occupied by The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which prohibited Jews from entering the area. Though not initially falling within Area C, the site has come under the control of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs.[10] Rachel’s tomb is the third holiest site in Judaism.[11] Jews have made pilgrimage to the tomb since ancient times,[12] and it has become one of the cornerstones of Jewish-Israeli identity.


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