Hebron Welcomes High Holidays after Last Year’s Lockdown
Slichot prayer services attracted people from all levels of observance seeking to connect to Jewish history.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron continued to be a popular place to visit in the weeks leading up to the Jewish new year.
A special event was held for employees of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization. Singer Liran Levi performed the slichot benedictions and a special prayer was recited for wounded IDF soldier Bar-El Hadaria.
Yaakov Hagoel chairman of the WZO and acting chairman of the Jewish Agency quoted Theodor Herzl at the event stating, “Zionism is a return to Judaism even before returning to the land of the Jews.”
Ifat Ovadia-Lusk, head of the WZO Department of Hebrew and Culture which organized the event stated “the return of the Jewish people to Hebron is a miracle that happened thanks to the power of those Jews who did not give up on Hebron as well as the national spirit that the Zionist movement instilled in them.”
Singer/songwriter Bini Landau, who lives in the Southern Hebron Hills region performed a late-night slichot event a week before Rosh Hashannah and was joined by musician Avichai Paz Greenwald. The concert was live-streamed on social media.
Hebron has become a consensus issue for much of the Israeli public, evident by the support of elected officials from across the political spectrum and from the entertainment world. Pop star Kobi Peretz, known for his Sephardic and Mizrachi style performed at a special midnight concert Saturday night. He was joined by Ben Snof, a popular musician from the religious community.
All events were conducted following Ministry of Health guidelines for preventing COVID-19. The Tomb complex was open for green pass holders – those who either have been vaccinated or are recovering from coronavirus and have antibodies.
The annual “Closest to the Matriarchs” women’s prayer gathering will return this year on September 13, 2021. Presenters at the event will include popular motivational speaker, Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrahi, Maya Ohana Moreno, who will talk about bereavement and hope, and musician Ruhama Ben Yosef.
Participation is free with pre-registration https://hebron.tickchak.co.il/20911 or WhatsApp 055-947-8563.
In previous years, thousands participated and popular singer Sarit Hadad performed.
Special slichot prayers for the Ten Days of Repentance will be led by the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu accompanied by musician Rabbi Uriel Saeed. The services will be held at the Hall of Isaac and Rebecca, which was reopened this year after cases of coronavirus subsided. Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef will be in attendance.
Live stream screens will be set up outside for those without a green pass.
Transportation available from across the country. Registration is mandatory at https://hebron.tickchak.co.il/21130
For more details call 02-996-5333.
Last year, the country went into lockdown for the High Holidays as the pandemic swept the world. This year, historic sites such as the Maarat HaMachpela, as it is called in Hebrew, are cautiously re-opening.
Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency medical services, set up booths in front of the holy site for rapid corona tests. Magen David Adom operational head Ronen Bashari and Magen David Adom regional COVID activities coordinator Ori Shaham arranged the testing booths in coordination with the Jewish community of Hebron.
The ancient burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah, holds special significance for the Jewish people, especially entering the High Holiday season of Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur and Succot.
Daily slichot services began on the first of the month of Elul, the month before the new year, with a special musical prayer gathering in the Hall of Isaac and Rebecca. It is one of the ten days throughout the year that this section of the Machepla complex is accessible.
Special buses were arranged for the influx of visitors. The Hall of Isaac and Rebecca will be open for Rosh Hashana and Succot as well.
David Avisar, an early 20th century writer and historian from a long line of Hebron natives wrote of the tradition to visit the Cave of Machpela during Elul.
“The month of Elul in Hebron brought with it hundreds of visitors from afar. The first to arrive, by foot, would be the young men from Tsor, Sidon and Damascus. When the visitors would reach the out-skirts of Hebron, the youngsters and community leaders, singing joyously, would go out to welcome them and accompany them to the community inn. The visit of the young men would bring great joy to the Hebron community. During the day the visitors would pray at the Cave of Machpela and other holy places in the city. At night they would dance and sing, and the entire community would come to the inn to participate in the festivities.”