|Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron (All pictures are from the Library of Congress, circa 1900)|
Republishing an earlier posting.
In synagogues around the world this Sabbath, congregations will read the Torah portion describing Sarah's death and burial. Abraham purchased the Mearat HaMachpela [literally the "double cave" -- so named either because it had two chambers or it would eventually contain pairs of husbands and their wives].
Genesis 23: And these were the days of Sarah, 127 years. Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba which is Hebron....Abraham spoke to the Sons of Heth: grant me legal possession of land for a burial site... for its price in full ... 400 shekels of silver.... Thus it was established, the field and the cave that was in it, for Abraham as legally possessed for a burial site from the Sons of Heth."
|"Inner entrance to |
Machpelah showing mammoth
stones in Herodian wall"
The massive building surrounding the gravesite was built by King Herod two thousand years ago. The actual graves are located in subterranean caverns beneath. Their locations are marked above ground by cenotaphs -- empty tombs that serve as monuments.
|Cenotaph above the Tomb of Sarah (circa 1900)|
In the 11th and 12th century Jewish travelers documented visiting the caves. One of them, Binyamin of Tudela, described "two empty caves, and in the third ... six tombs, on which the names of the three Patriarchs and their wives are inscribed in Hebrew characters. The cave is filled with barrels containing bones of people, which are taken there as to a sacred place."
|Hebron today, where school boys from near|
Jerusalem recently celebrated
completion of the book of Genesis
When Israel captured the area in 1967 Jews were allowed to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, but Israel allowed the Islamic Waqf authorities to maintain control of large portions of the site.
Many Jewish families in Israel celebrate weddings, bar mitzvas and circumcisions at the shrine.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
Click on captions to view original picture.