Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hebron: Reflections About Heritage

Hebron is the site of the burial cave for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. Abraham purchased land for an outrageous price to provide for a burial cave for Sarah, himself and his progeny through the ages. Abraham’s friend, Ephron the Hittite, offered to give him the land, but Abraham refused the gift. The sages say that Abraham bought the land because he didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding later about who actually owned the land. If Abraham had accepted it as a gift, it could later be said that Abraham was allowed to use the land, but it was not actually given to him. So, Abraham bought the land, and it has been a center of Jewish life ever since.

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt to take the land God promised to give them, Caleb fought for and conquered Hebron. The city was a special gift to Caleb because he followed the LORD with his whole heart.

Joshua 14:9 NKJV 9 "So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.'

Ruins of building from the time of Abraham
Later, we learn that King David began his reign in Hebron, ruling there for seven and a half years before moving his capital to Jerusalem. Hebron remained a vital city in Judea even after the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. In fact, many of the Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem settled in Hebron. In 135 C. E., the Romans exiled all the Jews from Jerusalem but allowed them to settle in a few other places around the land they renamed as Palestina. One of the areas they were allowed to go was to Hebron.

Empires rise and fall, and so did the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire. They fell to the rising power of the new religious force of Islam. The Muslims drove out the Byzantine Empire and attached Israel to the land that they ruled. Dynasties rose and fell with different Islamic rulers and policies. But through all this time, Jews still lived in Hebron.

In the 1500’s, A new Jewish synagogue was built in Hebron eventually named Avraham Avinu because tradition tells us that Avraham visited the synagogue one year at Yom Kippur to provide the tenth man required for a minyan, to be able to hold a Yom Kippur service.

At this time Hebron was a small town with a good portion of the population Jewish. Altogether there were only a few thousand residents. The residents got along well together; the Jewish people viewed the Arab residents as their friends and neighbors. But the world was changing; the British desire for world dominance had them attacking the Ottoman Empire which in turn joined forces with the Germans in World War I.

Our host, David Wilder, executive director of, in front of the tomb of Jesse and Ruth.
Many of the Jewish residents in Israel at this time viewed this strife as an opportunity to throw off centuries of Muslim rule and take back their land. They provided vital strategic information helping the British to defeat the Ottomans. They expected that they would then be able to re-establish their nation. The land of Israel at the time was mostly barren; the population was extremely low. The Ottoman’s placed little value on the land; it was considered nearly uninhabitable fulfilling the prophecies in the word of the LORD.

Ezekiel 33:28-29 NKJV 28 "For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. 29 "Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed."'

But the British, instead of rewarding the Jewish people for their help and keeping their promises to allow the forming of a Jewish homeland, began policies rooted in Anti-Semitism.  They promoted the incitement of hatred by the Arabs against the Jewish people. The centers of this Anti-Semitism were Jerusalem and Hebron. In Hebron, the Jewish people had continued to view their Arab neighbors as their friends and refused to arm themselves against their Arab neighbors. This led to a slaughter of the Jewish people and for the first time since Caleb defeated the Amorites to take the city of Hebron for his inheritance; there was no Jewish presence in the city of Hebron! After centuries of continuous habitation by the Jews, the British accomplished what no other empire had, the removal of the Jewish people from the city!

Since that time, the Jews have repeatedly and courageously returned to Hebron! The current Jewish community in Hebron has been blocked repeatedly from building on the land that the Jewish people own. They have been forbidden to buy any more land. In the meantime, the Arab population, numbering less than 10,000 in 1967 has been allowed to build wherever they want. The Arab population, bolstered by the deliberate moving of Arabs to the area, has soared to nearly 200,000.

Who is it that has forbidden Jews from building in Hebron? None other than other Jews backed by the policies of the United States. The United States, who purports to be the friend of Israel, is backing policies that will ultimately lead to the Jews being squeezed out of their own land. Jewish building is restricted by U. S. policy, but Arab building continues unabated! Even other residents of Israel see Hebron not as a Jewish city but as an Arab city. As Dan and I were on the bus returning from Hebron to Zichron Ya’akov where we were staying, we struck up a conversation with an Israeli woman across the aisle. When we said that we had just spent the day in Hebron, her attitude turned frosty. Her response to my statement that the Jewish community was continuing to live hopefully in spite of being threatened on all sides was, “The Jews have no business there. I will never go there.”

No business there? She has forgotten her own history if she ever knew it at all! Israelis and other Jews with this viewpoint have forgotten where they came from! They ignorantly forget that the tomb of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is there! They are throwing away thousands of years of heritage!  They are throwing away their inheritance and their future!

The two of us in front of the memorial at Ma’arat HaMachpela, Abraham’s tomb.
In spite of this opposition, the Jews of Hebron prevail. Their faith that God will grant them the land is unshaken. In the words of one resident, “The reason we continue is not just for us, but for all Jews and non-Jews to be able to visit the tomb of the patriarchs.” They persevere for the millions who visit each year. They do this even for the unfortunate Israeli woman who ignorantly declared, “I will never go there.”

The name Hebron means to associate or to join together. Hebron is a joining of the Jewish people to their roots. It is a joining with the giants of faith, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a joining with Caleb and Joshua who ignored the giants living in Hebron and stated that the land God had given them was a good land and that the children of Israel should go up!

Numbers 13:30 NKJV 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it."

Hebron is a reminder that God has promised the land to Israel for all generations.

Genesis 13:14-15 NKJV 14 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 "for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.

The faith of the residents of Hebron is unshakeable. They stand firm on the promises of God.

Ezekiel 36:8-10 NKJV 8 "But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. 9 "For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. 10 "I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.

God will restore Israel!

Shalom from the land of Israel
Dan & Brenda Cathcart