For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Dr. Aaron Lerner IMRA Weekly Commentary 13 May '10
“How old are these steps? Well, let’s put it this way,” said Hebron Spokesperson Noam Arnon, as he pointed to steps running between two Bronze Age walls in Hebron, “when Abraham climbed these steps with Isaac, he might have noted what great shape they were in despite their ancient origin.”
Now that’s a unique perspective.
When I joined the five buses from Raanana and Kfar Sava this evening on their 200th visit to Hebron that coincides with the anniversary of the 1967 liberation of the city, I was reminded once again of just how unique this Jewish historical landmark is.
So there we were going into a building built at the same time as Herod’s spectacular Temple in Jerusalem.
Going into it.
Herod’s Temple was destroyed.
The building, that has the same architectural style and building methods as the Temple, stands to this very day.
And yes. It does indeed sit on top of a “double cave” – a “Machpela” - as described in the Bible as the final resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob and other ancestors in the first recorded price gouging in a real estate deal (“what’s four hundred shekels of silver between you and me?” Ephron asked Abraham rhetorically).
For centuries of Moslem occupation Jews were denied access to this holy site.
But in 1967, when the building finally returned to Jewish control, Israel decided not to follow the Moslem precedent and claim exclusive Jewish access. Instead Jews and Moslems share access, with each group assigned space in the building along with exclusive use of the entire structure for Jews and Moslems on the respective major holidays. [This gets a bit complicated some years since the Moslem calendar is a lunar calendar without a solar adjustment to the Moslem holidays are constantly shifting around the year and sometimes coincide with Jewish holidays].
The Hebron model is proof positive of two important principles:
Open access to religions with contending claims to a site is only viable if the site is under Jewish control.
That ongoing control can only be assured if it is supported by the presence of a living community adjacent to the site.
These are principles that are crucial for Israeli policy makers to keep in mind as they enter negotiations.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"