On October 25, 2004, it was reported that for the first time in hundreds of years, Jews are taking up permanent residence in Bethlehem. Two families, including parents and children, arrived at the new Rachel’s Tomb residential complex. The families are living in newly built apartments on property purchased, over the course of the last several years, from Arab owners.
Israel Defense Forces officers told the families and the yeshiva students who are staying there that the army was waiting for directives from the political echelon regarding whether they could continue to remain at the site.
Right-wing activists and people involved with the yeshiva were preparing to ultimately bring 10 families to live there and transform it into a settlement near the holy site, on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, to provide a basis for a permanent Jewish presence in that region.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to arrive for special prayers in memory of Mother Rachel on the traditional anniversary of her death. Groups and individual worshipers from the length and breadth of the religious spectrum are expected to visit the site to mark the date, as they have in previous years.
The project is backed by the Rachel’s Children Reclamation Foundation, Uvneh Yerushalayim and Yeshivat Beit Orot.