Last week I saw an ad for a bus going to Kever Rachel from the Ramah for today. I emailed and signed up. Lor decided she wanted to come with me. I only got her becuase I "forgot" to mention the "wonderful stories and songs of Rochel Imeinu" promised for en route. It was an interesting trip. We were, by far, the biggest "goyim" on the trip, but we had a good and meaningful trip in any case. I had a list of roughly 30 names to keep in mind, and I did my best to do so.
I was never at Kever Rachel before it was "fortified", but I have to imagine hat going there prior to "the addition" was a completely different experience. Gone is the little dombed building that you see in all the post cards. The pillars and the gate are still there, but the roof has been removed and the building encased inside a veritable fortress with major security.
I was there 8 years ago and even then, though already fortified, it was a lot more open. The security fence" makes it feel a little bit like being inside a prison. Scary stuff... but only a little. The bus lets you off roughly 5 feet from the entrance and you are basically told to go right inside.
You walk into a small vestibule, than a long hallway. On your right is a sink. I understand that one needs to wash when they leave the building, but I am not sure why people wash on their way in. I have a hunch that it is "becuase it is there" so people just figure they are supposed to.
Here is a virtual tour of the building and lots of other neat stuff about Rachel and the kever including historical drawings and information. http://www.keverrachel.com/virtualtour.asp?lang=en&id=1&PageId=43
You walk down the hall. If there were any men with us they would have turned right just past the (vacant) security desk and gone into the men section. There is a ner tamid burning and that is about all I could see. Yep that is a dude in a tallit on the bottom right. I did not bother taking a picture of down the hallway as there was really not much to see.
Here is what is left of the picturesque building and its gates that were once here.They gaurd the path to the men's section.
This is the entrance to the antichamber to the kever itself. It is a room with benches and chairs around the perimeter, a well in one corner, and a wall of bookshelves fulled with siddurim, tehillim, etc. That small door leads to the actual kever.
Inside the actual kever. This was as close as I got. I have no idea why all the tombs of the avot and imahot and malachim, and, well, pretty anyone of biblical proportions have huge above ground matzevot like that, but they all do. And they are all covered with awesome coverings with embroidery and whatnot.
I gave some money to some of the people there. One gve me a pile of the traditional red strings. I took it home and played with one of them until I found something to do with it that was a little more unique than a "kabbalah string". Viking weave in fine silver with sterling finials and findings. Way more me. Yes I will have more like this for sale in the next few days.
When I got back to Beit Shemesh Lor and I went on a hunt to find the women's underwear store that sells Ballet dresses (that was all the information I got on where to go get channah's new uniform. Believe it or not, even with just that to go on we managed to find it! May I present to you a touch of gratuitious cuteness, the Channalina Ballerina!
So while all this is going on, a wonderful friend in Tel Aviv has offered to get me some wire that I need and drop it off as she will be driving by Beit Shemesh later on this evening. Great. I am so proud of myself, I even remember that I am in Israel now, and remember to switch my measurements to the metric system.
She calls me from the store, Rach, this is way mroe expensive than you told me. I coudl nto leave her hanging as it was already cut she would be on the hook (apart from being a really obnoxious thing to do to a friend doing me a favour, that would juts be all around a bad idea!). so I put it on my credit card. Problem solved, but why the heck was it so expensive.
Um, yeah. LEts go with I forgot that I could nto just write meters instead of feet without actually changing the quantity. I wanted 5 feet of the stuff and I got 5 meters of it! I'll say it was a little more expensive than I thought it would be!
Oh well, now I have wire to last a while at least.