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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Hebron Trip

This coming week, Jews around the world will be reading from the Torah portion known as Chayei Sarah. I've always found it interesting what the Torah chooses to elaborate on and what it chooses to skip. It glosses completely over the origin and identity of Cain's wife, for example, while it devotes a large portion of the beginning of Chayei Sarah to describing Abraham's negotiation and purchase of the Me'arat Hamachpelah, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and the field in Hebron where it is located, from Efron the Hittite, as a burial site for his wife and family.

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.


tnspr569 said...

Wow! An incredible trip with two amazing tour guides! And you had how many J-Bloggers together at once?! How do you do it???

PsychoToddler said...

The Seven Bloggers were all related to me. Or me.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

I was there in 2000, and it was an amazing trip. I went with a group of my shul members on a mission, in an armored bus; walking the land of Abraham, standing on ground where he stood and is buried was truly amazing.

Baila said...

I went last summer and it was amazing--but I'm so jealous that you got Trep and Jameel as your tourguides!!!!!

Ezzie said...

Ooh, I'll have to watch the rest later, but that's awesome. And what do you mean? He always sounds like that! :D

SaraK said...

I always make sure to go to Hevron when I am in Israel. For me, it's the 2nd holiest place (after the Kotel). I feel so connected when I am davening there. Awesome that David was your tour guide. How cool! On my trip this past December I picked up a bus from Jerusalem (I think they run twice a week).

David Linn said...

Amazing post. I've been to Maarat Ha Machpelah twice in the past three years, it's always a highlight of our trip.

Brave of you to go there with Jameel, considering his past history there! Also, I found it interesting that the back of Jameel's head is not yellow.

tnspr569 said...

PT- still, getting Jameel and Trep together is quite a feat!

Ooh, Jameel brought his big gun :)

Did you see Jameel's extra-special car windows?

Jack's Shack said...

Did Jameel bring waffles?

Yosef said...

The 7 bloggers... kind of reminds me of Rabbi Nachman's story, "The 7 Beggars".

Jacob Da Jew said...

I see the boyz are packing weapons..Nice.

When I was last there, the Rishon LiTzion was also on the grounds.

Holy Hyrax said...

Ooooooooh, Jameel.....and from the muqata

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

PT: That was a great trip...my only wish is that it were longer, since there's so much to see in Hevron.

Next trip I guess.


PS: How did you photoshop all of the yellow off the back of my head?

JoeSettler said...

Are you sure that Jameel doesn't sound like that in real life?


PsychoToddler said...

Jack: No waffles, though he did tell us the whole waffle story. Jameel's hysterical in person. But the really funny stuff can't go up on a blog. Isn't that sad?

Shira Salamone said...

Seven Bloggers and one too-young wanna-be, plus Trep??! Just how big is David Bogner's car?

Shira Salamone said...

Snow White and the Seven Bloggers, anyone? :) (Not quite sure which one of you passes for Snow White, but . . . )

Seriously, having Trep and Jameel as tour guides, then having a blogger bash with Safranit, must have been way cool.

RaggedyMom said...

Really nice shots and footage. It looks like you guys covered a lot of ground this summer.

the apple said...

Looks amazing. I wish I had made it Chevron while I was in Israel for the year. Alas. It will have to wait for another trip, I suppose.

the sabra said...

THANKSSSSSS for the pics and for the video!!

much much much MUCH appreciated!

gd bless you!

Lion of Zion said...

nice post. you were lucky to have those tour guides.

"The Cave of the Patriarchs is neither a cave nor a tomb."

i was in hevron once for shabbat (1992). i remember being disappointed when i got to the mearah. i really thought we were going to descend into a cave. i wasn't prepared for that massive building.