Dozens of armored buses brought hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jewish worshippers to pray at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem on Saturday and Sunday evenings.Ma'an doesn't bother to explain that as little as ten years ago the buses that went to Bethlehem weren't bulletproof. In fact, ordinary cars could travel there and people could even walk there!
Tour buses lined the streets on the western side of the seperation wall, and roads were blocked off from Tantur to the Beit Jala (Gilo) checkpoint as hundreds of worshipers in black coats and hats gathered in the area.
The mass prayer gatherings were organized by the Mosdos Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb Institute) around the date believed to be the anniversary of Rachel's death. The official date set by the group is 9 November, but worshipers overwhelmed the area on Saturday evening as well.
The Institute runs a Jewish religious school at the tomb, and funds a daily bullet-proof bus service that brings Jewish worshippers from Jerusalem to the tomb.
The biblical Rachel is revered as one of the four matriarchs of the Jewish people, and Jewish tradition holds that she was buried by her husband Jacob in Bethlehem. The tomb is also a holy site for Muslims and Christians, and the location of the Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, which is now inaccessible to West Bank Palestinians.
What could possibly have happened that would cause these threatening, black-clad ultra-religious fanatical Jews to be forced to use armored buses to travel to the third holiest site in Judaism?
And is there any Jewish holy place that Muslims don't also claim as their own?
It's a real mystery....