Hebron is one of four holy cities in Judaism, along with Tzfat, Tiberias, and Jerusalem. Many can forget the city’s holiness because of the political tension that exists surrounding the city from as early as 1929. But it is indeed a spiritual city with religious roots.
Abraham’s beginning of Hebron.
Hebron began its importance in Judaism with the patriarch Abraham and his wife, the matriarch Sarah. The story is described in Genesis chapter 23, when Sarah passes away at the age of 127. Abraham begins to mourn the passing of his beloved wife. And that makes a lot of sense—after all they had gone through a long adventure together: coming to the Land, Abraham’s circumcision, going to Egypt, coming back, having Isaac at a very old age.
But during Abraham’s mourning, he turns to the Hittites and asks to buy a piece of land in order to bury Sarah. The Hittites recognize that Abraham is a man of G-d, and inform him that he does not have to pay for the plot of his choice.
He meets with Ephron in order to make an agreement to bury Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah. Abraham will insist to pay Ephron, and then buried Sarah in the cave. All this happens in Hebron. From this moment, the Cave of the Machpelah and Hebron have had Jewish roots.
Since Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah were buried in the Cave of the Machpelah. All of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, with the exception of Rachel, are buried here, making it a very important Jewish spot. Archeological surveys have proven that this grave of the Cave of the Machpelah is thousands of years old!
Jews from around the world and throughout history will visit and live in Hebron in order to be close to our ancestors. Every year, when we read the Torah Portion telling the story of Sarah’s burial, Jews go to Hebron for Shabbat to remember this story.
Why is it connect to earth??
Each of the four holy cities I mentioned before (Tzfat, Tiberius, Hebron, and Jerusalem) are connected to an element of nature. Hebron is connected to earth.
Why? What’s the connection? Well for one, it is where Jewish burial began, where putting people in the earth in a Jewish style all got started. That’s very much connected to the earth. Furthermore, it is the burial site for some of the founders of Judaism—the very people who created the context for the Jewish religion. Those burials are going to be very important.
Second, you can see the earth and the ground around the city of Hebron. You can look around and see the earth and surroundings. So you cannot forget that connection to the earth.
What is its connection to religion today?
While Sarah’s burial, and Abraham’s, Isaac’s, Rebecca’s, Jacob’s and Leah’s burial for that matter, were a long time ago, it is still important today. As I mentioned before, these people are the founders of Judaism. They are the people who stepped forward and believed in one G-d, in the Jewish G-d. These people changed the world. Without them, we would not be who, and where, we are today.
As a result, many Jews, as well as Muslims and Christians, find the burials to be a holy site. Many archeologists believe that the building was expanded and built by King Herod. Ever since, until today, Jews have been coming to the burial site for prayer and inspiration. And because of that holiness, when Jews began returning to the Land of Israel they would join the community living in Hebron for hundreds of years.
Others didn’t choose to live in Hebron, but every year many come to visit the city and the Cave of the Machpelah. One time a year is a special time for Jews to go to the Cave of the Machpelah. It is the Shabbat when we read the Torah portion where Abraham buries Sarah in Hebron—when it all began.
Why should I care about Hebron now? What is my connection?
Now all of this is very well and good, but why should I care about the city of Hebron? Why is all of this important to me? It is important because these people, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah, changed history, whether or not you believe in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or any other belief system.
At the time of these people’s lives, no one believed in the religious system they did. Without the matriarchs and patriarchs of Judaism, the world today would look COMPLETELY different. We can, at least, appreciate the dedication to and bravery for what they believed in.
When you enter the Cave of the Machpelah, you can feel the spirituality of the site. The matriarchs and patriarchs were righteous people who set an example for generations to come. Today, life can sometimes feel complicated and blurry. Abraham and Sarah, and their generations, can set an example and a path for us to look to. Visits to Hebron can remind us of all of that.