The actual meaning of 'MACHPELAH" is 'DOUBLE' (from the Hebrew root k-p-l), and is interpreted as referring either to a double cave or to the 'couples' buried in the cave.The Bible relates that Avraham, wishing to bury Sarah, purchased Machpelah from Efron the Hittite for 400 silver Shekels. Avraham himself, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were...more
The Abraham Avinu Synagogue (Hebrew: áéú äëðñú òì ùí àáøäí àáéðåý) was built in 1540. The domed structure represented the physical center of the Jewish Quarter of Hebron, and became the spiritual center of the Jewish Community there and a major center for the study of Kabalah. It was restored in 1738 and enlarged in 1864. Jordan took control of...more
A sign on the Hadassah House commemorating the 1929 massacre of Hebron’s Jews, when 67 Jews were killed. Although the remainder of the town’s Jews were hidden by sympathetic Arabs, the British evacuated the survivors. The Jews who settled in Hebron following the 1967 conquest of the West Bank by the Israeli Army see themselves as the avengers of...more
The Mosque/synagogue/once-church above the caves of the Patriarchs is the most important historical building in Hebron. The Patriarchs in question are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Since I am in favour of political correctness I shall also include their wives Sara, Rebecca and Leah as "patriarchs". All these biblical figures are revered by Christians,...more
The land around the Oak of Abraham near Hebron was bought by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws) in 1868. The idea belonged to Antonin Kapustin, and Russians managed to buy the land from the Muslim owner with the help of Jacob Halebi who bought the land in his name.The building of the church began in 1908, the...more
Hm, the Oak tree is old indeed. But whether it is the oak where Abraham saw God as three men in Genesis 18, I do not know.'The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.'The story is from the Old Testament. In...more
Hebron is an ancient city in a part of the world that stretches back for thousands of years. Just northeast of the Tomb of Abraham, and dotted about elsewhere, are remains of the old city, now crumbling but still very attractive. This part is in a high security zone on the route to the Kiryat Arba Israeli settlement. With the situation in the city...more
Hebron is two cities in one - part is run by the Palestinian Authority, part by the Israeli authorities. To walk between them, past the numerous high security checkpoints, is like entering a new world. While the Palestinian half is poor but bustling and full of life, colour and noise, the occupied half is like entering a warzone. Miles of empty...more
This is the Rabbi's Plot of Hebron's ancient Jewish cemetery. Numerous very famous Rabbis are buried here, as are some of the victims of the 1929 riots. The whole cemetery is quite an extensive site and there was nobody about so just let yourself in and have a wander around.more
Jesse was the father of King David and this small hilltop tomb is where he was buried. It must be one of the strangest ''tourist attractions'' that I've ever seen. It's a tiny little cavern with a couple of candles and pictures, right in the middle of an Israeli army camp. According to a very outdated tourist leaflet, "The peak of the hill offers...more
Just inside the Israeli controlled part of the city, this is a former community hospital and synagogue. It now houses a small museum about the history of Hebron's Jewish community, with specific focus on the 1929 riots in the city that left many Jews dead. The building next door commemorates the six Jewish men murdered in 1980 on their way to the...more
The souk dominates the Palestinian part of the city and it's a typical West Bank market: chaotic, crowded, bustling and colourful - with insane traffic jams and endless beeping horns. Some of the buildings in this area are left over from Mamluk and even Crusader periods (as well as somewhat more modern, less attractive concrete blocks) and it's...more
Unfortunately the Israeli soldiers wouldn't let me in to the mosque, but I did get plenty of chance to explore the synagogue over what Jews call the Cave of the Patriarchs. It wasn't actually as spectacular as I imagined - most of the decoration and furnishing were simple wooden tables, plastic chairs and bookshelves full of Jewish literature. It...more
The massive castle-like structure was built over the cave around 2000 years ago. Today, on the lower level - directly over the cave - is the Ibrahimi Mosque. Above is a synagogue. They both have separate entrances and unsurprisingly security is very high: in 1994 a fanatical Jewish settler massacred 30 Muslim worshippers as they prayed here.more
From Israel the easiest way to get to Hebron is from Jerusalem. Catch bus number 21 from the main street right outside Damascus Gate, going to Beit Jala. Stay on until the final stop, where you're dropped by the side of the Hebron Road and there are buses and service taxis waiting to take you on to Hebron (Al Khalil in Arabic). The whole journey takes maybe an hour or so and will cost about 10 shekels. The bus drops you just north of the main souk and the city centre. It was strange to go on an Arab bus with hardly any passengers - certainly makes a change!
To get back to Jerusalem you can do the same journey in reverse. Or I'd recommend -if you want to go to Ramallah, there are plenty of service taxis on one of the main streets north of the souk. It's a very pleasant journey, although it can take quite a while depending on how strict the checkpoints are. The scenery is beautiful and you go past Bethlehem and the Herodian mountain. The cars can't go into Ramallah itself so they drop you at the Qalandia checkpoint.
I've travelled in quite a few countries where camels are a common sight, but very few tend to eat them. They can be very expensive and valuable animals so at most the meat is available only as a delicacy.
But in Hebron it's quite common to see skinned camels strung up at the butchers alongside goats and the other more usual meats.
While many of the people in Hebron are understandably wary of speaking to strangers, I found most people that I did talk to to be very friendly and welcoming. But at the end of the day this is one of the West Bank's numerous hotspots and its obviously best to be sensible. Walking through the souk with a Jewish prayer hat on your head, for example, would not be a good idea - ditto going to the Jewish settlements with a Palestinian headscarf!
Once you get into the Israeli part then the military presence is obvious and there are soldiers all over the place and snipers on many rooftops. It's safe but ultimately it's still a warzone so keep alert at all times. Many of the tourist attractions are heavily fortified and effectivley military zones so always be careful where you're walking. As a couple of soldiers warned me as I passed through their checkpoint, the army snipers near the Jewish settlements can be quite trigger happy and often shoot first, ask questions later.
Many of the sites are therefore not always accessible - the photo shows the signpost marking the way to the ancient city walls and Abraham's Spring. Which is very helpful, but unfortunately immediately next to it the road is closed off with barbed wire.
Favorite thing: see hebron,and the border between the arab city and the jewish district;I came by taxi from bethlehem,then by foot from the arab part of hebron,to the tomb of the patriarchs,then to qiryat-arba