The Most Ancient Heritage of the Jews: Thousands Flock to the Cave of Patriarchs in Hebron

Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD. (Gen. 13,18)

Thousands to spend Shabbat in Hebron commemorating purchase of Cave of Patriarchs. The Torah portion that will be read on Saturday in synagogues all over the world, Chayei Sarah, describes how Abraham purchased the cave as a burial plot for his wife Sarah.

As described in the Bible, Abraham himself, as well as other fore-parents Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah, are also buried there, making it one of the holiest sites in Judaism – and also in Islam, which venerates Abraham for being Ishmael’s father. Located in the heart of Hebron’s Old Town, the monument houses both Jewish sanctuaries of worship and the Ibrahimi mosque.

Several events are scheduled for the weekend.

According to a statement by Israeli police, tens of thousands of people are expected to visit the site over Shabbat. For this reason, special security arrangements have been implemented by Israel’s security forces.

“On the very site where the Jewish patriarch Abraham offered food and drink to wayfarers from an open tent in the hot desert sun, Chabad of Hebron will do its best to live up to his example when it hosts a record crowd of 6,000 at its annual Shabbat Chayei Sarah mega-gathering beginning Friday at sundown,” the hassidic Chabad Lubavitch movement said in a statement.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jews and Arabs lived side by side in Hebron, sharing shops, hospitals and holy sites. However, with the rise of increased Jewish Zionist immigration to Palestine and the growth of Arab nationalism and incitement, tensions grew, culminating in the massacre of 67 Jews in 1929, which effectively ended the Jewish presence in Hebron.

When Jews returned to the city in the decades succeeding the 1967 Six Day War – under the protection of the IDF and the State of Israel – the Palestinian population viewed them as hostile occupiers.

In 1994, Jewish resident Dr. Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Riots ensued, after which the IDF closed Shuhada Street to Palestinians, which had been the heart of the city’s commercial life.

Since 1997, the city has been divided into separate communities: the Palestinian-controlled H1 area, which comprises around 80% of the city, where around 200,000 Palestinians live, and the Israeli-controlled H2 neighborhood, with around 1,000 Jewish residents. This arrangement generates friction, which often results in well-documented clashes.

In 2017, UNESCO added Hebron’s Old Town and the Cave of the Patriarchs – under the State of Palestine – to its list of World Heritage in Danger sites, sparking outrage in Israel and beyond.

(Source: Jerusalem Post)

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