It is perhaps the earliest documented deed of sale for a parcel of land. And yet it seems incredible that, 3500 hundred years later, we are still arguing over who actually owns it. The cave, and the city of Hebron itself, home to the first kingdom of David, where he ruled before conquering Jerusalem, is one of the oldest and holiest pieces of Jewish land. And it is also a place that the world has decided must be free of Jews. Naturally, when we planned our trip to Israel over the summer, we decided that it is a place that our children must see.
We were very fortunate to get Jameel from the Muquata and David Bogner from Treppenwitz to be our guides.
Rather than get into a long and boring chronicle of the trip, I'm going to post some pictures and let them speak for themselves.
Driving through Hebron in David Bogner's car. He is dissecting the new Beatles Love CD as we drive past the rubble-strewn environs. Surreal does not begin to describe the moment.
The outside of the compound for the Me'arah. The Cave of the Patriarchs is neither a cave nor a tomb. Discuss.
Jameel and David Bogner approach the enclosure over the Mearah. Note, if you will, the stones used for the bottom half of the structure. These are identifiable by their size, their inset border, and the quality of their construction as Herodian Stone. This places the age of the structure at around the time of the Second Temple.
The stones of the upper half of the structure follow an undulating pattern which simulates waves when viewed from a distance. This same pattern was used in the construction of the Second Temple. Putting it all together, if the Romans had not sacked the Temple in 70 AD, it most likely would still be standing today and would look very much like this.
The entrance to the chamber that houses the Cenotaphs for Abraham and Sarah.
The Cenotaph, or false tomb, of Abraham. This confused me when I came here as a kid. This casket is NOT underground in a cave. But that's OK because Abraham isn't in it. Possibly this marks the geographic spot where the Patriarch is buried in the cave under the structure. Or maybe not.
While we were there, Jameel explained to us the history of the Me'arah and the city of Hebron, and relayed this fascinating story to us.
The very interesting chandelier which hangs over the cenotaph. I'm assuming the Arabs change the light bulbs because Jews aren't allowed in.
The smaller, side shul inside the enclosure. We managed to catch a Mincha prayer while we were there.
The larger main shul in the courtyard.
The ark where the Torah is kept in the larger area.
After the tour we were treated to an amazing meal courtesy of David and Zahava Bogner. Aside from Jameel and the seven bloggers I brought with me, we also met up with some old friends from Milwaukee, Safranit and her husband, who made aliyah a few years ago. From L-R: Jameel, Safranit, David, and me. Notice how Jameel and I are wearing the same outfit. I was truly mortified.
What series of vacation pictures would be complete without an obligatory pose from The PT, here joined by the "other" psychotoddler, son of Treppenwitz.
Below is a movie my son Larry took while we were there. In Jameel's defense, he does not normally sound like he's been inhaling helium. I edited the speed to mask his voice.