Cave of the Patriarchs – Hebron

Hebron is most famously known for the Cave of the Patriarchs (or Ma’arat HaMachpela), a synagogue/mosque where the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism and Islam (and Christianity) are buried, namely Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. It is the second holiest place in Judaism and is also believed to be the entrance to the Garden of Eden and the burial place of Eve (according to the Zohar). Hebron later became a capital of Judah under David. According to tradition, Abraham purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela for 400 sheqalim and was buried along side his family in the cave. A massive structure (1-6) was built on top of the cave under Herod (Second Temple Period), and is the only Jewish building that has been intact for over 2000 years. The building has switched between a mosque and a church, and then a mosque by the Arabs, Crusaders, and the Mameluks. The West Bank was retaken by Israel during the Six Day War and 20% of the building is now a synagogue.

The Patriarchs and Matriarchs are memorialized by the six cenotaphs (tomb markers) used for worship, but are buried deep underground in a cave. The entrance to the cave was recently discovered under the cenotaph of Abraham, but the crypt still remains sealed. Although the site is under Israeli control, most of it remains and mosque and was closed to us on a Friday. From the main hall of the synagogue (7-9), we were able to see the cenotaphs of Abraham אַבְרָהָם Avrahim (10-13), Sarah שָׂרָה Sara (14-19), Jacob יַעֲקֹב‎‎ Yaakov (20-22), and Leah לֵאָה Leah (23-26). Issac and Rebecca’s cenotaphs were well within the mosque, so we were not able to see them.

~ by jonathanmtsai on February 27, 2011.

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