Tens of thousands of Jews arrived in Hebron over the weekend to mark a special Sabbath when the bible reading opens with Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Patriarchs.
Known as Shabbat Chaye Sarah, the reading describes the death of Abraham’s wife Sarah and his purchase of the burial cave that has become one of the most significant sites in Judaism.
“There is no Sabbath like this, in which we read about the purchase of the burial cave by Avraham, to send a message to the younger generation of the connection between our forefathers and the roots of the Jewish People,” said Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
The increase Jewish presence in Hebron coincided with an increase in army and police presence. The city along with the Cave of the Patriarchs has been a point of contention between Jews and Muslims.
Hebron, along with Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias, are considered the “Four Holy Cities,” the main center of Jewish life prior to the establishment of Israel. Until the 1929 Hebron Massacre—where 67 Jews were killed, Jews had a continuous presence in the holy city since antiquity. Jewish presence resumed when Israel took control from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
The city is significant to Jews because it contains the traditional burial site of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. However, the site is also venerated by Muslims because of its association with Abraham. Today, several hundred Jews and approximately 250,000 Palestinians live in Hebron.