Passover in Hebron

April 11th 2011

This Passover, while you’re traveling in Israel, you might as well visit some long-lost relatives. You know, the ones you lost touch with years ago, the ones your ma and pa told you stories about, and the ones who go waaaay back to the beginning of Jewish history.

In other words, if you want to go visit the Patriarchs of Patriachs of your family tree, go back to your roots on your Israel vacation and visit Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s graves ( and of course, the Matriarchs- Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah).  Rachel is buried “along the way” at Kever Rachel, which is another amazing place to visit.

It’s true, up in the north in an area called Hebron, is what is known as in English the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Nowhere else in Israel can you see the Arab/Jewish land divide so strongly perhaps as in the Cave of the Patriarchs, with the section for Isaac sectioned off as Arab property, inaccessible to Jews during the year. However, a couple times of year, the grave is opened for Jewish visitors, and Chol Hamoed ( the intermediate days of Pesach) is ones of those times.  If you are on a private Israel tour, this is a must- see experience.

Wait a minute, who ever said that the Matriarchs and Patriarchs were buried in Hebron? Check it out, Genesis 23, it’s got Cave of the Patriarchs ( known in Hebrew as Mar haMachpelah) written all over it :

“Abraham then requested that Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, give him the cave of Machpelah, in the end of his field, “for as much money as it is worth”. (verse 9) After Ephron confirmed that he would give the cave, in verse 11, Abraham further requested that he give him the field for money, in verse 13. Ephron agreed and named a price.”

So there you have it.

Plus, according to Jewish tradition, Esau’s head is also buried there ( that’s a longer, more squeamish story).

This site is the second most sacred holy site to the Jewish world, after the Temple Mount. If you want to go even farther back, according to the Zohar, the Cave was where Adam ( The First Adam) dug the graves for him and his wife, apparently the gate to the Garden of Eden.

Your Israeli tour guide will have a lot to say, telling you about all of the complex history of the site and the Jewish community’s plight there throughout the ages. It wasn’t always that easy to go and pray at the COTP. In 1267, the Muslim Mameluks forbade Jews and Christians from entering the building that housed the graves.  Jews could only stand on the “seventh” step that led to the building. Seven hundred years later, this prohibition was finally eradicated, when Israel liberated Hebron and the Cave in 1967.

If you’re hanging out in Hebron, vacationing in Israel over Chol Hamoed Pesach, you’re sure to get Matza fever ( in a good way). Hebron is a festive place to be during the holiday, with lots of holy energy in the air.