Weekly Commentary: Hebron - Israel's National Heritage, Model of Joint
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date: 27 November 2021
President Isaac Herzog is slated to light a menorah for the first night of
Hanukkah on Sunday at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
This is a building erected at the same time as Herod's spectacular Temple in
Herod's Temple was destroyed.
And this structure, which features 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
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.
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