“And then Avraham buried his wife Sara in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Chevron—in the land of Canaan.” Genesis 23:19 (The Israel Bible™)
This Shabbat, the 1,000 Jewish residents of Hebron will host 25,000 of their brethren who are coming to hear the reading of the portion of the Torah dealing with Abraham’s purchase of the Machpelah Cave as a burial place for Sarah. This traditional gathering is especially significant this year since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a Palestinian Authority proposal in July declaring the city to be a “Palestinian Heritage site in danger”, essentially attacking any Jewish claim to one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
This year is also significant as Hebron’s Jubilee. Jews lived in Hebron continuously for 3,500 years, but in 1929, the local Arabs rioted, killing 69 Jews. The remaining Hebron Jews were evacuated by the British and not permitted t return until the IDF victory in the Six-Day war in 1967, 50 years ago.
Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron, explained that Hebron is not only important as the burial site of all of Judaism’s patriarchs and most of its matriarchs, but the city also has an essential role in the future geula (redemption).
“While the haters of Israel are claiming that we have no claim to the land, it is especially important to emphasize our claim in the place that was our first acquisition,” Fleisher told Breaking Israel News. “But it isn’t just about the past. Hebron and reconnecting with our forefathers is an essential part of the Jewish return to Israel and the coming of the Messiah.”
Fleisher cited Malachi as his source.
He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents, so that, when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction. Lo, I will send the navi Eliyahu to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of Hashem. Malachi 3:24
“According to the midrash (homiletic teachings) Abraham chose the machpelah (cave of the Patriarchs) because Adam and Eve were buried there,” Fleisher added. “David chose it as the beginning of his kingdom, and his kingdom is going to come out of there again in the times of Moshiach. Hebron contains the beginning, middle, and end of human history.”
In recognition of the significance of this Sabbath’s event, several locations that are usually off limits, such as the Hall of Isaac & Rebecca will be open. The Casbah, the center of the Jewish community until the Arab riots in 1929, is now an Arab shuk (market) and currently restricted to Jews. The street will be open during this Shabbat Hebron.
The event will feature many honored guests, such as Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Shmuel Eliyahu, popular singer Dudu Fisher, Chazzan Sruli Hersh, Member of Knesset Uri Ariel (Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development), MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Deputy Defense Minister), MK Gila Gamliel (Minister of Social Equality), MK Ze’ev Elkin (Minister of Jerusalem Affairs & Environment), MK Yoav Ben-Tzur, MK Moti Yogev and several high-ranking IDF Commanders.
Due to its holiness, the city should be a center of universal peace. Instead, it is the focus of much conflict. The 1,000 Jewish residents live in the midst of about 160,000 hostile Palestinians and are under constant threat of attack. In addition, Tayseer Abu Sneinah was elected mayor of the PA’s side of Hebron in May. Abu Sneinah was convicted of taking part in a 1980 terror attack that killed six Jews and injured 20 others as they returned home from Friday night prayers in Hebron.
Since the 1997 Hebron Accords, most of the city has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). About 700,000 people visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs every year.