Tomb of the Patriarchs Hebron

| October 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Hebron Eighth Wonder of the World

The Herodian edifice built over the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the eighth wonder of the world.

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved View of Abraham's Chamber

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved
View of Abraham’s Chamber

It is one of the largest and oldest Jewish places of prayer on earth, and today, 2,000 years after its construction, the Jewish People make full use of the edifice, for both study and prayer, eighteen hours a day. A constant stream of tourists can be found in the edifice. Visitors celebrate bar mitzvahs, weddings and circumcisions there. They study and pray, and they participate in fascinating tours of the site.

Style of the Tomb’s Construction

As the style of construction is virtually identical to that of the Western Wall and Temple Mount Plaza, it is assumed to have been built by King Herod, and to have served as a model for the Temple Mount, which he built towards the end of his reign. Herod, an unpopular, Roman-appointed king, was descended on his father’s side from Edomite converts to Judaism, and may have been seeking the love of his Jewish subjects by using magnificent Jewish construction to emphasize his own Jewish links. Whatever its background, the magnificent edifice over the Tomb of the Patriarchs was built for the benefit of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, to honor the memory of their Jewish ancestors, at a time when Israel was an overwhelmingly Jewish country.

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved Steps Leading up to Jewish Entrance

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved
Steps Leading up to Jewish Entrance

The edifice consists of enormous dolomite stones, many weighing several tons, fitted together like Lego pieces, without a drop of cement or glue. The numerous earthquakes that have struck Israel during the past 2,000 years laid waste to whole cities. The Machpela edifice, by contrast, has survived these two thousand years, untouched by time.

Although all the patriarchs are buried together in a cave beneath the center of the edifice, Herod built a large, rectangular, open plaza at the top of the edifice, empty except for six cenotaphs, symbolic memorial markers, dedicated to the six patriarchs buried there. He placed Abraham and Sarah at the center, Yitzhak (Isaac) and Rivkah (Rebecca) to the right (east), and yaakov (Jacob) and Leah on the left (west).  It is within that plaza that Jews and non-Jews worship and pray when they enter the edifice, at the top of a stairway.

The edifice is accessible to those with disabilities, thanks to a special motorized wheelchair that allows visitors to reach the entrance without having to climb the stairs. Call 052-8990309 for details.

History of Hebron

Over the last two millennia, conquerors, including the Byzantines (395-638), Muslims (638-1099), Crusaders (1099-1187) and Mamelukes (1260-1516), who wished to accentuate their connections to monotheism on the one hand and their triumph of conquest on the other, all left their architectural stamp on the edifice.

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved Eastern Wall of Edifice

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved
Eastern Wall of Edifice

Until the thirteenth century, Jews worshipped inside the edifice in a large synagogue that they had constructed there. In 1267, however, the Mameluke Sultan Beirus banished Jews and Christians from the site, and for the next seven hundred years, until 1967, Jews could only pray on the steps leading up to the building’s eastern entrance way. Any Jew ascending past the seventh step was physically beaten. During all that time, Jews continued to weep and pray there.

Finally, during the Six Day War in 1967, Israel liberated Hebron, rendering the Machpela edifice accessible to Jews once more. In 1969, General Rehavam Ze’evi, head of Israel’s Central Command, ordered the steps ascending along the eastern side of the edifice destroyed, to remove the shame of seven hundred years. Never again would Jews be limited in their access to the edifice.

Today, 345 days of the year, the western half of the edifice is accessible to Jews. Ten days a year, including six intermediate days of Pesach (Passover) and Succot,  the entire edifice is accessible to Jews.  During  the ten Muslim Holy Days, the entire building is closed off to Jews. For precise information about openings and closings, see www.Hebron.com.

Come and experience the edifice over the Cave of Machpela for yourself. Touch Jewish history with your own hands. Hear the stories about Jews who descended to the actual caves and what happened to them. See where Adam and Eve are traditionally thought to be buried. One visit will only begin to touch the history of this magnificent edifice.

Tomb of the Patriarchs Hebron: Did You Know? 

Moshe Pearl, the Jewish artist forced by the Nazis to produce the eight metal arches bearing the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” at Auschwitz, came to Hebron after 1967 and voluntarily produced the metal signs labeling each of the Patriarchal cenotaphs.

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Category: Hebron, Historical, Judaism

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