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Israel’s Second City

The Midrash tells us that when Avraham Avinu served the three angels, he had difficulty catching one of his goats. He chased all the way into a cave, where the goat was hiding. Avraham tasted an amazing sweet fragrance. He realized that it was the smell of the Garden of Eden, and somehow, the entrance to Gan Eden was from there.

This was the מערת המכפלה, the Cave of Machpeila, which Avraham eventually would purchase from Efron the Hittite. He would later learn that Adam and Eve were buried there.

Today this holy site is visited by Jews around the world, as they pay their respects to the Matriachs and Patriarchs of our people.

Because the city of Hebron is often mentioned in the news, in the context of tension between Israelis and Palestinians, the holiness of this city is often overlooked.

It is the “second city” of holiness in all of Israel. Only Jerusalem is holier.

King David made Hebron his capital for seven of his forty year reign. King Saul’s general, Avner Ben Ner, is also buried in Hebron.

The cemetery in Hebron was closed to Jews until the heartbreaking story of Sara Nachshon took place. Sara, the wife of artist, Baruch Nachshon, had lost her infant son to an illness. His name was Avraham.

She carried the remains of her young son to the cemetery and made a request. Things had come full circle, where now Sara asked for a burial place for Avraham.

This time it was Israeli soldiers that had to grant permission. They were full of compassion and broke down and cried. Since then, many holy Jews have been buried there.

We must not overlook this holy city that is rich in Jewish history, and sanctity. All who visit are uplifted. And it all began with a lost goat!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.