Thousands of Israelis Visit Biblical City of Hebron Last Weekend to Honor Matriarch

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Continuing an annual tradition, thousands of Israelis spent the past week’s Sabbath of “Shabbat Chayei Sarah,” in the ancient Biblical city of Hebron.

On “Shabbat Chayei Sarah,” the Jewish community across the world reads the portion of the Patriarch Abraham purchasing the Cave of Machpelah, located in Hebron, to bury his deceased wife Sarah.

“I thought there was going to be a lot fewer people but there were still thousands and it was incredibly impressive,” said Yishai Fleisher, international spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

The number of Israelis spending Shabbat Chayei Sarah in Hebron this year was noticeably lower than in previous years, however, largely due to the recent wave of terror attacks. Fleisher emphasized that the thousands who showed up displayed a significant level of defiance.

“We defied them,” Fleisher said, referring to the recent wave of terror attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists targeting Jerusalem, Hebron, and other areas in the country. “We showed amazing defiance but it wasn’t an angry defiance. It was full of joy and happiness.”

Fleisher told TPS that a number of terror attacks were carried out in Hebron over the Sabbath. “There was a shooting near the Cave of Machpelah and an attack on security forces outside of Hebron,” Fleisher said.

“The enemies of Israel will stop at nothing to erase our connection, our historic, spiritual legal connection to this land, they tried to erase our identity,” continued Fleisher. “They wanted to put a damper on our joy and people had to overcome rain as well, but the people came and the reason the people came was because this is the heart of our identity and the reason we have legitimacy to be in this land.”

Among the thousands of Israelis who visited Hebron for the annual event were prominent Israeli officials including Israel Chief Rabbi David Lau and several Members of Knesset including MK Eli Ben Dahan, MK Gila Gamliel, MK Uri Ariel, MK Moti Yogev, MK Shuli Mualem, and former MK Orit Struk.

Fleisher took the opportunity to expound on how Hebron is a source for the Jewish people’s legitimacy in the land of Israel. “Hebron is the first land purchase of the Jewish people in the land of Israel,” Fleisher said, referring to the Biblical portion of Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah. “It’s where the founders of Judaism are buried, the greatest human beings that ever walked the earth.” 

Fleisher also referenced Israel’s first Prime Minister. “Ben Gurion said that Hebron is the proper sister city of Jerusalem,” he added.

Elaborating on Ben Gurion’s statement, Fleisher explained that “just like King David whose kingdom started in Hebron and then moved to Jerusalem, there’s a natural progression from the roots of our history in Hebron to the future of our history, which is in Jerusalem.”

Fleisher also stressed the desire of the Jewish community in Hebron to make the city a heritage site for the non-Jewish world as well.

“Hebron is going to become a world heritage site for all those who want to pay homage to the founders of monotheistic civilization,” Fleisher said.

Written by Jonathan Benedek/TPS

(Originally published in Tazpit News Service)

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