Friday, May 18, 2007

Chaos! Was it intentional?

Last night, before I went to sleep, I posted a picture and "tease" asking readers to guess where I had been. Nobody took me up on it, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway. Actually I just posted the simple answer on me-ander. That was the "pshat," now for the "drash" plus.

There's a monthly trip from Shiloh to Kever Rachel just before Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month. We have been doing it for years. Sometimes it goes simply and other times... with great difficulty. Once we never even got in.

So now you know. Yes, this is one of the worst, yes no doubt, the worst trip, so far, to Kever Rachel.

It started off fine. I was picked up at the "T junction" from Beit El. We got into Jerusalem without any delays, and there weren't any major traffic jams. We didn't even wait all that long at the demeaning "border" between Jerusalem and Beit Lechem.
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A number of people waiting there came on the bus, filling all the empty seats and even standing in the aisle.
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The soldier joined the bus, and we drove to Kever Rachel, where we saw mobs of people outside. The bus opened, and a couple of passengers managed to get off before the driver locked us in from the outside.

Yes, it's one of those stories. We began to get worried.

After quite a delay, we were told that there was no room for us inside, and our bus, for incomprehensible reasons, was forbidden to fill with the waiting people for us to take their places. We were forced to return to the "border" and promised that as soon as some Gush Etzion buses took the people back,we'd "be the first to go in." Hah! You're not surprised, nu?

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We waited, and yes we waited almost an hour, and we didn't see empty buses go in returning full. Also we couldn't understand why davka it was so crowded. Maybe everyone wanted to say the special Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan prayer?

Ours wasn't the only bus waiting. The soldiers had promised that we'd be first, "just 10 minutes," we kept hearing. Then we saw some Gush Etzion buses scoot ahead. So we followed. As we approached, the jeeps cut us off. Is that the maneuver they use against criminals and terrorists? That's how we felt!

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It wasn't pleasant. People got off the bus to ask and argue. Nothing made any sense. We were outraged that the soldiers demanded the drivers license. He hadn't done anything wrong. Why weren't there shuttle buses to efficiently transport the people back and forth? One of those who came onto our bus said that she had been waiting for two hours at the "border." The neighbors who had managed to get in reported that it wasn't all that crowded.

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Finally, a couple of buses left the "compound," and we and the jeeps backed up a bit. Then we were let in. It was crowded, but if the army had been better organized, it wouldn't have been.

I found myself a spot in the back corner of the inner women's section. There were candles lit there, even though it's not permitted. They were hidden.

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After close to an hour, it was the time we had set with the driver to meet and return to Shiloh. MOBBED! Yes, totally mobbed. It was almost impossible to get near the sinks by the exit. The back door was opened for the "Bostoner Rebbe" and his entourage.

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I finally made it to the sink, looking frantically for my neighbors. Usually, it's no problem to make contact with everyone while waiting. I found one, and we waited along with hundreds of other frantic Jews.

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The metal door was locked for security reasons, and people were feeling faint from lack of air. Cups of water were passed around, and finally the door was opened, but nobody was allowed out.

Eventually buses came, and people tried to leave on the "right bus." There were buses from all over the country.

At last the call "bus to Shiloh," and we happily boarded. Then we let others fill the empty seats, and we went home to Shiloh, menucha."

Chodesh Tov, Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!


Anonymous said...

Oy vey! What an adventure!

I've never seen much of the "outside" area around the "compound", since both of my visits were closer to the nighttime hours. At least those visists went smoothly.

Shabbat Shalom!

Batya said...

It really was horrible. Each month they manage to make it worse.

Anonymous said...


I only saw this today after seeing the new Havel Haveilim. I am so sorry for your experience.

The first time I went to Kever Rachel was the summer of 2002 (actually it was both our pilot trip AND my first trip to Israel). We went with Efrat's Tuesday regulars. It was the last day of a three week trip with extensive travels all over Israel.

I remember the rage I felt as we pulled into the narrow cemented "garage" for the buses and saw the sandbags and the barbed wire. I remember the feeling of horror when I realized that the soldiers were drawing their weapons to protect us as we disembarked from the bus.....

We'd been all over Israel and had never seen an Arab walking with fear. But here at one of our important religious sites we had to file off the bus under armed guard.

Once inside, my husband allowed his tears to flow freely -- he explained that the last time he had been to Kever Rachel it hadn't been a fortress: just the modest resting place of Rachel Imeinu.

On the way back to Efrat I began to cry. One of the women mistook my tears for fear and tried to comfort me. When I explained that I was ANGRY not frightened, she relaxed.

Sadly, my work schedule doesn't allow me to go as often as I would like.... I am profoundly grateful for the courage and dedication of the many women all over Israel who've committed themselves to weekly and monthly trips to remind the government of our connection, our right, and of our obligation to remember the woman whose tears were shed in the hopes of protecting us -- her children!

Here's hoping the next trip is less "eventful."

Batya said...

thanks for your perspective.
My first visit to Kever Rachel was as a student in 1969, and it was so wonderful.
I just can't believe that little tomb is buried in that concrete monster.