Shabbat in Hevron
If you have never spent Shabbat in Hevron, you have missed out on an incredibly intense experience of tefilah, history and devekut with the roots of our Nation.
Hevron, in the Judean hills, is one of our four Holy Cities (along with Yerushalayim, Tveria and Tzfat). The story of Avraham Avinu purchasing, for an exorbitant amount of money, a burial cave for his wife Sarah Imenu, is an undeniable example of land legally purchased by our forefathers for eternity, a fact seemingly lost on the Arabs who inhabit most of Hevron today.
The jewel of Hevron is Me’arat haMachpela, the oldest Jewish site in the world from the standpoint of a site with no change in purpose. From its origins to this day, Me’arat haMachpela has been a place to pray near the burial place of the patriarchs and matriarchs. The original platform over the caves (Adam & Chava, Avraham & Sarah, Yitzhak & Rivka and Yaacov & Leah) was replaced with an ornate structure by King Herod. However, there is a substantiated alternative theory that this structure was actually built by the Hashmonaim.
700 years ago, Muslims invaded and conquered Hevron, and forbid Jews from ascending beyond the 7th step of the stairs leading to the haMachpela. Today, you can see the mark of this 7th step, and many Jews stop here to pray before entering. Muslims turned the entire structure into a mosque, which is what it is today. Jews have free access to all areas of Me’arat haMachpela, except for the kever of Yitzhak, which is open to Jews only on 10 designated days of the year.
The highlight of Shabbat in Hevron is kabbalat Shabbat at Me’arat haMachpela. You can stay either in the beautiful guesthouse in Avraham Avinu (the Jewish quarter of Hevron)–or in Kiryat Arba and walk the path to the ancient holy city.
Kabbalat Shabbat brings together Jews from all walks of life: from the most observant to those who have no idea where to begin. Israelis, diaspora Jews, soldiers, the elderly, young yeshiva students all melt into one people, one heart, one song, one voice and for sure all of Shamayim opens to the simcha and tefila pouring out of Me’arat haMachpela.
It seems that no one wants to stop as the singing and dancing goes on and on. You cannot possibly avoid being transformed and readied for the most memorable Shabbat of your life.
On Shabbat afternoon, tours are available in Hebrew and English. Accompanied by heavily armed IDF soldiers, you can visit the original Jewish quarter of Hevron and taste the history of our once-thriving community in this ancient city. If you are up for a bit of a walk, and permission is received, it is worth it to hike up into the hills to visit the grave of Ruth and Yishai.
Hevron is easy to reach. Egged buses are very frequent. You can drive by private car all the way to Hevron, or park in Kyriat Arba and take a shuttle.