As Jacob’s death is approaching, Jacob calls Joseph and begins to prepare him for what to do after his death, but suddenly there is a verse which seems unrelated to the context: “And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died unto me in the land of Canaan in the way, when there was still some way to come unto Efrat, and I buried her there on the way to Efrat – the same is Bethlehem.” (Genesis 48:7)
The Midrash says that at this point, at the beginning of exile, Jacob begins to explain to Joseph the special role of Rachel in accompanying the nation of Israel to exile, and how she will inspire them not to give up, and to continue to pray and plead for the return to the Land in due course.
Rachel’s Tomb which is described in this verse is located right on the border between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Throughout the long years of exile, Jews have come to pray at Rachel’s tomb, to request personal and general help for the nation of Israel. This place is one of the most recorded places in the land of Israel over the last two thousand years, making it a place to track changes that have taken place at different periods in history. With the beginning of the return to Zion, Moses Montefiore renovated and expanded Rachel’s Tomb in honor of his own wife Rachel, giving the place the look that we are familiar with from paintings and pictures. The site was not accessible to Jews for 19 years while it was in the territory of Jordan, until the Six Day War when the compound was released by the IDF.
Today the tomb is open to Jews during most hours of the day, and it is easy to come pray there. It is accessible both by car or public transportation. It is about five minutes away from the Talpiot neighborhood in South Jerusalem.