Israel Forever

For the week ending 2 November 2002 / 27 Heshvan 5763

To Whom Does Hebron Belong?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Hebron has been in the news a great deal lately. On Chol Hamoed Succot a rabbi visiting the Machpela Cave to pray at the tomb of the Patriarchs was murdered by a terrorist sniper. Only last week the IDF evacuated the city that it has occupied following terrorist incidents and took up positions around the city to defend its Jewish residents.

What is perhaps the most distressing news is that the Israeli Civil Administration produced a document blaming the Jewish community in Hebron for inciting trouble by attempting to repossess Jewish property in Hebron.

In this weeks Torah portion we read of the purchase by our patriarch Avraham of the Machpela Cave as a burial site for his wife Sarah. Our Talmudic sages state that, thanks to this purchase, this Hebron site is one of the three places in Eretz Yisrael whose Jewish ownership cannot be disputed even by those who deny our Divinely given title to it.

This same inviolable claim is made by leaders of the Hebron community in the detailed response they made to the aforementioned accusation.

The original Jewish community that lived in Hebron for many generations owned substantial property in the city. All the lands of the "Jewish Ghetto" today known as the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, the majority of Tel Rumeida and many other homes, stores and agricultural lands were owned by Jews. The 1929 Arab massacre, in which 67 Jews were murdered, prompted the British to banish Jews from the city. But even after this exile, and another which ended the 1936 attempt to resettle the city, Hebrons Jews held on to the purchase and leasing deeds of the properties to which they hoped to return. The Jordanian conquest of the city in 1948 transferred these properties to the "Custodian of the Properties of the Zionist Enemy".

Avrahams purchase of the Machpela Cave took place3,678years ago. Jewish possession of property in the city of Hebron was revoked only 54 years ago. Neither of these events should be forgotten in the great debate as to whom does Hebron belong.

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