Tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis and visitors came to the holy Jewish city of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Maaras HaMachpela) in a yearly pilgrimage to mark the reading of the week’s Torah portion.
This past Shabbat, Jews around the world read the parsha of Chayei Sarah, in which the Biblical patriarch Abraham buys the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in order to bury his dead wife Sarah.
Bereishit (Genesis)23:1 – 23:6 “Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, also known as Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her.
“Avraham rose from beside his dead and he spoke to the children of Heth. ‘I am an immigrant and a resident among you,’ he said. ‘Sell me property for a burial place with you so that I can burn my dead, [and not have her here] right in front of me.”
“The children of Heth replied to Abraham, saying to him, ‘Listen to us, Sir, You are a prince of God in our midst. Take our best burial site to bury your dead. No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.’”
The (Torah portion) parsha goes on to detail how Avraham asked the children of Heth to arrange the sale of the cave with Ephron, the Hittite, son of Tzohar — but Ephron wanted to give him the cave as well as the field he had already given him. But Avraham refused.
23:13 “I am giving you the money for the field. Take it from me, and I will bury my dead there.”
Ephron replied, setting the price, (23:15) “My lord, listen to me. What’s 400 silver shekels worth of land between you and me? Bury your dead.”
And so it is written, (23:16 – 23:19) “Avraham understood what Ephron meant. He weighed out for Ephron the silver that had been mentioned in the presence of the children of Heth, 400 shekels in negotiable currency.
“Ephron’s field in Machpelah adjoining Mamre thus became [Abraham’s uncontested property. [This included] the field, its cave, and every tree within its circumference. It was Abraham’s purchase with all the children of Heth who came to the city gate as eyewithnesses. Abraham then buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah Field, which adjoins Mamre (also known as Hebron), in the land of Canaan.”
The Jewish community of Hebron announced that some 40,000 people participated in the pilgrimage. Large tents were set up for group meals, and smaller tents dotted the landscape near the tomb, where families and groups set themselves to camp out for the festive Shabbat.
Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he had ordered his office to advance planning for the construction of Jewish housing in Hebron.
The announcement followed the Israel’s Cabinet approval last month of the establishment of a new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, the first Jewish housing to be built for Jewish Israelis in the West Bank city in 16 years.
The approval of the nearly $6 million project includes 31 homes, a daycare center and a park on a site that was formerly an Israel Defense Forces base. The area is known as the Hezekiah Quarter.
The plan previously was approved by the Civil Administration for the West Bank, the Defense Ministry body that oversees Israel’s civil policy in the West Bank. With the Cabinet’s approval, the project can be implemented.
Some 500 Jewish Israelis live in Hebron in four neighborhoods, amidst more than 100,000 Palestinians.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is holy to both Jews and Muslims.
Edited by: JV Staff
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