“Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said: ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.’ And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hastened to dress it. And he took curd, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.” Genesis 7-8 (The Israel Bible™)
Hebron, the second holiest city in the world after Jerusalem, is often in the press as a scene of terror attacks. A fact perhaps lesser known is that the Bible associates Hebron with the outstanding hospitality of the Biblical father Abraham and mother Sarah.
Build Up Israel, an organization which gives people the chance to “buy a brick” in one or more Israeli building projects, is working hand-in-hand with Chabad of Hebron, known for its outstanding outreach work, to build a “Welcome Center” in the heart of the city. This building will be the starting point for thousands of individuals and groups to receive a friendly welcome in the tradition of our Biblical ancestors.
“Hebron is the most famous place in the world for Jewish hospitality,” explained Gabi Sackett, Project Manager for Build Up Israel, to Breaking Israel News. “The Bible praises the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, whose tent is described as being opened on all sides to assure that travelers from any direction would be seen and greeted in their residence.”
In that merit, Build Up Israel is working to raise enough funds to create a home away from home for the nearly 500,000 annual visitors to the holy city of Hebron and the thousands of Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers who are stationed there. “Statistics show that 80 percent of Israelis have never visited Hebron, the home of our Biblical mothers and fathers,” noted Sackett to Breaking Israel News. “We pray that this ‘Welcome Center’ will encourage more people to come to the city and seek out their roots.”
The Bible also credits Hebron as being the first recorded purchased property in history. Over 3,700 years ago, Abraham bought the Cave of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat Ha’Machpela in Hebrew) as it is written in Genesis 23:19-20:
“And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre – the same is Hebron – in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying-place by the children of Heth.”
Following this arrangement, several generations of Biblical matriarchs and patriarchs were buried there: Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah. It is also traditionally accepted that Adam and Eve are buried there as well.
The Cave of the Patriarchs is considered the place from where all prayers and souls ascend to Heaven. Additionally, Hebron is the site where King David established his kingdom, and the burial site of his father Yishai and grandmother Ruth.
Yet, with all the historic significance of Hebron, political tensions and terrorism have stigmatized the city as the microcosm of the Arab-Israeli conflict, making the “Welcome Center” an even more significant endeavor.
Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli authorities have restricted or forbidden Jewish expansion or building projects in Hebron, bringing general neglect to the city. Build Up Israel hopes that through the “Welcome Center”, Hebron will be returned to its Biblical glory as a spiritual and hospitable hub.
“The opportunity to establish the “Welcome Center” will allow us to change the landscape of Hebron by expanding and rebuilding the only privately-owned real estate in the city,” Sackett explained to Breaking Israel News. “The 12,000 square ft. building is located on the original site of the Machpela Field purchased by Abraham. It doesn’t get more significant than that!” he exclaimed.
Since 2002, Chabad of Hebron has maintained a 24/7 Chabad House. Visitors and IDF soldiers, who patrol and defend the city, know they can go there for food, rest, warmth and relaxation. Additionally, Chabad of Hebron focuses its efforts on serving the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of Hebron’s Jewish community. It also leads tours of the city, maintains and upgrades ancient Jewish sites, and increases awareness of the significance of Hebron to the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel.
The “Welcome Center” will serve as a multi-functional campus for all of these endeavors and more. It will allow Chabad of Hebron to increase its ability to serve residents, tourists, students and soldiers tenfold.
Plans of the center include a soldier’s lounge, a mikveh (ritual bath), a Judaica store, a kosher restaurant, a grand ballroom, a multimedia auditorium, “Abraham’s Tent” guest suites and accommodations, a Jewish studies sanctuary, children’s Bible study classrooms, an outreach center and more.
Through the “Welcome Center”, Build Up Israel hopes to re-establish Hebron as the center for hospitality and a flourishing holy city in Israel.
“Hebron unites people from all backgrounds,” continued Sackett to Breaking Israel News. “We are the sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah. This “Welcome Center” is meant for all people who visit Hebron – whether they have visited before or if it is their first time. Everyone should feel at home in the city of our Mothers and Fathers.”