The city of Hebron, one of the most ancient cities in biblical Palestine (Canaan), is more than three thousand years old. It was in that Hittite city that our patriarch Abraham purchased a burial cave for the body of his beloved wife Sarah. Years later, his son Isaac and wife Rebecca were buried there. And Isaac’s son Jacob and his wife Leah were also buried there.
The double cave of Machpelah, burial place of our earliest ancestors, is one of the holiest places in the Jewish religion.
In medieval and early modern years Muslim Arabs and Jews lived, mostly in peace, together in Hebron. Most of the Jews were Sefardim whose ancestors had lived in the city for several hundred years. In the mid-19th century, Ashkenazi Jews began arriving from Eastern Europe.
Sometimes there were religious conflicts between Sefardim and Ashkenazim. In 1929 the population of Hebron was 21,000… 700 Jews and the rest Muslim Arabs.
In 1929 there was a fierce dispute between Muslims and Jews for the rights to the Western (Wailing) Wall where Jews had prayed for centuries. The Arabs turned to the British Mandatory authorities urging them to expel all Jews from the site. The British complied and Jews were banned from praying at the Wall.
On August 15, 1929 a group of Jewish protestors arrived at the Wall to pray and were met with deadly violence by the Muslim Arabs.
One week later, on August 23, 1929 the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini declared that the Jews were going to attack the Temple Mount and destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque.
For the next 2 days, August 23-24, deadly riots broke out in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Hebron. 133 Jews were massacred and 67 seriously wounded. The British eyes were closed. They saw nothing and they did nothing !!!
A noted rabbi and some other Jews fled to the home of Rabbi Slonim and begged his son to give them asylum. Arab murderers came to the home and demanded that the refugee Jews be handed over or else they would kill the Slonim family. The rabbi’s son refused to hand over his fellow Jews to the Arabs and thus, he and his family were murdered by them.
When after two days of the Hebron massacre …the pogrom of 1929… the British police finally intervened and aided the surviving Jewish population to leave the city safely.
When some Jews returned to Hebron, they again had to flee for their lives during the notorious Arab riots of 1936-1939, encouraged by the Grand Mufti who later fled to Germany and aided Hitler in Berlin during the war years.
After the 1948 war, Hebron was occupied by the Jordanian Legion and Jews were forced out of the city.
They did not return until after the 1967 war when hundreds returned to rebuild their homes and lives in Hebron, City of the Patriarchs.
Many Zionist Jews moved to a section of Hebron, Kiryat Arba, and built beautiful new homes but found life painful and difficult living among an Arab majority population which hated them and tried often to destroy them.
Young men, teen-age sons of the Jewish settlers, frequently attacked Arab farmers, burned their land, cut down their olive groves and in some extremely tragic cases, they murdered innocent Arab families in their homes or in their cars
Foreign tourists are often taken on tours of Hebron “a city under Jewish occupation” and in their conversations with local Arab residents they become embittered with the Israeli occupation and turn to pro-Palestinian protests when they return to their respective countries.
But this week, a miracle happened in Hebron. A miracle that only the spirit of God could have brought !!
At the end of the Muslim month of fasting during Ramadan, Muslims rejoice in the big feast known as Iftar
And this week, Muslim Arabs and Israeli Jewish settlers sat down together at the same tables under a large tent and they ate kosher food and drank together, both peoples enjoying cups of hot black Turkish coffee.
There were handshakes and hugs from Arabs to Jews and from Jews to Arabs. It was a true miracle. It had to be seen to be believed. A wonderful event !
And as one Jewish settler proclaimed with hope, “I think the messiah has arrived”.
Who knows? In Israel, miracles frequently happen.
One great miracle happened this week in Hebron.
(Now if God could only create another miracle and drive the Likudniks out of politics). But that would be asking God for too much, I think.