Record 40,000 Jews Gather in Hebron to Celebrate Rebirth of City
“So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, near Mamre—the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field—passed to Avraham” Genesis 23:17 (The Israel Bible™)
he Jewish Community of Hebron announced a record 40,000 Jews gathered for the 24th annual commemoration of Abraham’s purchase of the Machpelah Cave (Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron).
The gathering is held on the Sabbath in which the section of the Torah describing Sarah’s death and Abraham’s purchase of the cave in Hebron from Ephron as a burial site for her is read.
Avraham accepted Ephron’s terms. Avraham paid out to Ephron the money that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites—four hundred shekalim of silver at the going merchants’ rate… 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 23:16-19
The Talmud states that there are three places in Israel the non-Jews can never claim the Jews stole because their purchase is explicitly described in the Bible: Hebron, Shechem, and the Temple Mount. UNESCO has passed resolutions concerning all three sites stating that they have no historical or religious connection to Israel.
Despite these efforts, the Jewish community in Hebron is about to undergo a rebirth. Last Thursday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he had ordered his office to advance planning for the construction of an apartment building for Israeli settlers in Hebron. The apartment building will be situated above an Arab market built on land that belonged to Jews who fled after the 1929 Hebron massacre, in which Muslim rioters killed nearly 70 Jews and expelled the remainder of the population. After the 1948 War of Independence, Jordan leased the market stalls to Palestinians and gave them protected tenancy. After Israel conquered Hebron in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld that status of the Arabs. The shops in the market were closed but the court rejected attempts by Jewish residents to reoccupy shops.
Under the Hebron Protocol signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinians in January 1997, 80 percent of the city lies under full Palestinian control. Jews are restricted to living in 20 percent of the city.
“Promotion of the project was delayed for many years due to legal difficulties,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. However, the statement continued, ministry legal adviser Itai Ophir “formulated a legal opinion that allows, for the first time, the advancement of building procedures at the site.”
Two weeks ago, the Cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the establishment of a new neighborhood for Jewish settlers in Hebron, the first time in 16 years that such a project has been approved. 16 government ministries will allocate a total of $5.96 million for the construction of 31 homes, two kindergartens, a daycare center and a public park in the Hezekiah Quarter of Hebron. The site has been used to house an IDF base, which will be downsized with the neighborhood’s establishment.