by David Wilder
The Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Machpela cave) in the city of
It's difficult to know where to start: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, King David, the Maccabees, Herod the Great, Bar Cochva, Rabbi Malkiel Ashkenazi, Menucha Rachel Shneerson Slonim, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, or perhaps my three month old granddaughter Hadar.
Actually, probably the best beginning is with Baibars, Sultan of the Mamluks in the middle 1200s. In 1260 the Mamluks conquered
The history of Ma'arat HaMachpela is well known and documented. According to the holy Zohar, it was here where Adam and Eve, the first man and woman were buried. Called the 'entrance to paradise,' it is written that souls of the deceased travel through the caves of Machpela on their way to the next world. Thousands of years later the first Jew, the irrefutable revealer of monotheism, Abraham, discovered these ancient caves and purchased them for 400 silver shekels, as is recorded in the Bible. Here Sarah was interred, as were all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, excepting Rachel.
Over the centuries Ma'arat HaMachpela was not only a place of worship. It was also viewed in visionary terms, a symbol of the yearning of Jews to return to
"And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of MarCheshvan, I left
One needn't have been a religious intellectual to comprehend the essence of Machpela, or of
A journalist from a distinguished American newspaper asked me if perhaps it might have been wiser to allocate Ma'arat HaMachpela a government-funded budget without adding this site to the national "Heritage program." I responded, of course, under no conditions would this be acceptable. Why?
Following the beginning of violent riots in
Isabel Kersher, writing in the NY Times, quotes Zahran Abu Qubeita. the mayor of the Arab city Yatta, in the southern Hebron Hills as declaring, "[Ma'arat HaMachpela] is an Islamic site, not a Jewish one."
These answers must be viewed not only in the light of present politics, but rather on the background of seven centuries of Jewish inaccessibility to the building atop the Machpela caves. And accordingly,
Why do Islamic political and religious leaders refuse to accept any Jewish legacy at Machpela? For the same reasons they reject any Jewish birthright at Joseph's tomb, Rachel's tomb, and
But history, in reality, cannot be erased, and truth will prevail. For should Hebron and Machpela be blotted off the inventory of Jewish culture and tradition, surely the rest of Israel will soon follow because all of Jewish history is enrooted in the heritage which began in Hebron almost four thousand years ago.
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