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September 05, 1975 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1975-09-05

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32 Friday, September 5, 1975


Machpela Cave Rift Lingers




From . . . Levi's To Mighty Macs




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To Leisure Suits

From . . . Western Shirts To
Qiana Shirts
And Everything In-Between
To Make Him Happy

4 tWao

BOYS — Regular & Slims
PREPS — 25 Waist To 30 Waist

Happy New Year from
Sam Tanenhaus & Staff


MON.-SAT., 10-9
BankAmericard And Master Charge Accepted
SUN., 12 to 5

Cave of Machpela has been
in the news again of late. In
the past few months there
has been continuous friction
between Jewish and Moslem
worshippers at the shrine,
occasioned principally by
the limitations on the times
of Jewish prayer and the
fact that Moslems were in
the habit of holding funer-
als and carrying the bier
through the hall allotted for
Jewish worship while the
congregants were in the
midst of their devotions.
Following representa-
tions by the Jewish settlers
in Hebron, the Minister of
Defense, Shimon Peres, has
issued instructions to the ef-
fect that Jews and Moslems
will from now on use sepa-
rate entrances, and that a
section of the building will
now be devoted solely to
Jewish worship.
Thus, while the Moslems
will enjoy exclusive access
to the large hall and to two
adjoining chapels, the Jews
will have at their disposal
the two smaller chapels
known as the Chapel of
Abraham and Sarah and the
Chapel of Jacob and Leah.

Again, with the excep-
tion of Friday, which is the
Moslem day of rest, the
Jews will be able to pray
at the Cave ,during all
hours of the day and not
only at specific hours as
was the previous case.

The government's deci-
sion has undoubtedly re-

The National Bank
of Detroit

Extends best wishes
for a year filled
with health, happiness,
peace and prosperity
for all.

moved some of the disadvan-
tages under which Jewish
worshippers have labored
ever since the Six-Day War
when access to the Cave of
Machpela became possible
to Jews for the first time in
many centuries.
The Moslems, however,
regard the decision as a seri-
ous infringement on their
centuries' old rights to the
shrine, and the Moslem Su-
preme Council has launched
a violent campaign both in
Israel and in countries
abroad against what they
describe as "a dispossession
of a site holy to them."
Jewish connections with
this shrine go back to the
time of Abraham. In the
Book of Genesis we are told
that on the death of Sarah,
Abraham purchased the site
from Ephron the Hittite for
the sum of 400 shekels of sil-
ver, "whereby the Cave and
the surrounding field were
made sure unto Abraham
for a possession of a burying
place by the son of Heth."

Concerning this tran-
saction, the Sages of the
Midrash say that "this is
one of the three sites con-
cerning which the nations
cannot turn to the people
of Israel and say 'you have
robbed us of them' ".

450-year old Arab document
was discovered in Hebron by
a member of the El Khatib
family in Hebron, which
reads: "When the Christians
were forced to hand over the
town (Hebron) to the Arab
conqueror of the city, they
destroyed the splendid
church they had built over
the Machpela Cave, and bur-
ied the entrance deep in the
ground so that the Arabs
might not know where ex-
actly the shrine was located.
"But the Jews of Hebron
came to Omar and volun-
teered to show him where
the entrance to the Cave was
on condition that they were
permitted to build a syn-
agogue over the Cave.

"Omar agreed and
handed over to the Jews a
permit in writing to that
effect. For long afterwards
there was a synagogue and
a burial ground for the
Jews in the area of the
Cave of Machpela."

A Christian source — the
writings of Antonius, tells
us that a Church had been
erected over the Cave in the
year 570 C.E. and that there
were two entrances to the
shrine, one for Christians
and the other for Jews. An-
tonius writes: "From all
parts of the world Jews
come to light candles and of-
fer gifts to the keepers of
the shrine."
The first mosque over the
Cave was built apparently
in the 11th Century. There
was Jewish community in
Hebron at the time and its
members looked upon them-
selves as "the keepers of the
tombs of the Patriarchs."

Various views have been
advanced in Talmudic liter-
ature as to why the Cave is
called "The Cave of Mach-
pela". One opinion has it
that the Cave is so called on
account of the double graves
to be found there.
According to tradition, it
is the burial place of Adam
and Eve, Abraham and
Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah,
Jacob and Leah.
It is these four double
graves that have given He-
bron the name of "Kiryat
Arba" — the city of the
four. In Jewish tradition
Hebron is also known as
"the City of the Patriarchs"
and these in turn are re-
ferred to as "the Sleepers of
The Cave of Machpela has
been a site of pilgrimage
from time immemorial, and
not only for Jews. A Chris-
tian legend has it that Theo-
dosus II, a Byzantine Em-
peror who reigned in
408-450, issued an order for
the disinterment of the Pa-
triarchs and the transfer of
their remains to Constan-
On entering the Cave,
however, his messengers
were struck with blindness.
According to a Moslem len-
gend, the Crusaders who en-
tered the Cave suffered a
similar fate.

Although some archeolo-
gists, among them Profes-
sor Yigael Yadin, have ex-
pressed doubt as to whether
the site of the Cave of Mach-
pela is actually the burial
place purchased by the Pa-
triarch Abraham, the shrine
has been held in deep vener-
ation by both Jews and Mos-
lems throughout the genera-

Various historical docu-
ments prove that for over
600 years beginning before
the period of the Arab con-
quest, there was a syn-
agogue over a certain sec-
tion of the site and that the
Jews enjoyed the right of
separate entrance to the

Yet, until after the Six-
Day War, the Jews were al-
lowed to ascend to only as
far as the seventh stair lead-
ing to the South-West en-
trance of the building over
the Cave. It was there that
they were in the habit of
standing and of conducting
their prayers.

For some time the syn-
agogue was situated side-
by-side with a Byzantine
Church. When the Arabs
conquered the country from
the Crusaders, the syn-
agogue was located by the
side of a Moslem mosque.
Some 50 years ago a

The Jewish traveller, Ben-
jamin of Tudella who visited
Hebron in the middle of the
12th century, tells us that
he visited the Cave and that
"the Gentiles have erected
six tombs there for Abra-
ham and Sarah, Isaac and
Rebecca, Jacob and Leah."

When Palestine came
under the rule of the Mos-
lem Mameluke kings in
the middle of the 13th cen-
tury, entrance to the Cave
was forbidden to both
Jews and Christians for
the first time.

The latest Government
decision according to Jewish
worshippers: a separate
entrance to the building and
the exclusive use of two
chapels in it, is but a return
to the status quo existing
there for centuries.

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