Glimpses of Israel - Ramat Rahel

by Joseph Hunting

Ramat Rahel (Rachel's Hill) is situated mid-way between Jerusalem and Bethlehem and it derives its name from the matriarch whose last resting-place is on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The kibbutz was in existence before the State of Israel and during the War of Liberation many battles were fought in the area.

Almost 4000 years have elapsed since Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin and during that time Ramat Rahel has witnessed Nebuchadnezzar's army pillaging Jerusalem and destroying Solomon's magnificent Temple, the courageous return of Ezra to rebuilt the Holy City and its Temple, its destruction again by the Roman legions, and finally the equally courageous return of the modern Israelis to the Old City of Jerusalem in June 1967.

A thousand years after Jacob laid Rachel to rest a drama was enacted in Jerusalem that ended in tragedy and a royal exile to Ramat Rahel.

Uzziah was one of Judah's famous kings, famous both in battle and in civic construction. Scripture succinctly describes his downfall: "But when he was strong his heart was lifted up to his destruction; for he transgressed against the Lord his God" by unlawfully burning incense in the Temple.

Even as he took the censer in his hand he became leprous. Scripture concludes the incident: "And Uzziah was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord." (2 Chronicles 26:21).

The Law required that no leper could live in Jerusalem, and archaeologists working at Ramat Rahel have excavated the massive walls of the palace where Uzziah ended his days, as well as the ruins of later Roman and Byzantine occupation at this ancient and historic site.