Last Saturday night, Chana and I joined a women's trip to Kever Rochel--Rachel's Tomb. A synagogue across town was doing a fundraiser for their members who need financial help over the holidays. A member paid for the bus so all the money raised went to the charity fund. For Israel, it was expensive--100nis (about $25) for each of us--but I was really glad to support the need as well as have someone drive me to Kever Rochel, as I had never been there and, really, it's not in a great neighborhood (although plenty of seminary students--including my own--have taken the public bus there and report that it is easy and safe).
The entrance to the complex has a gated fence and a soldier actually walked through the bus we were on. We were clearly a pretty innocuous bunch of frum females (we were sitting across from a woman who had brought bags of popcorn to give out to the soldiers on duty) and were allowed to enter the compound. There are high walls with barbed wire and lookout posts on the tops as you travel down the road, turn a corner and then....enter a more open area where there were tons of religious Jews milling around. Cognitive dissonance.
We entered the Kever and had some nice private davening before the bus left to go back home. It was quite crowded, as the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are both an important time to pray as well as a traditional time to visit the grave's of one's ancestors.
The most surprising thing for me was finding out that the "modern" Kever Rochel looks nothing like all those art projects my kids brought home from preschool. Maybe you have to come during the day. Or enter from another way (although the way we came in is the only way Chana says she's ever entered), but there is no dome on top! Yet more cognitive dissonance.
All in all, another thing to tick off of my "new olah" checklist (and, in this case, my "baalat teshuvah" checklist) and the synagogue raised over 6000nis for its members in need ;).