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Parashat Chaye Sarah - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Chaye Sarah - the Life of Sarah. It tells of the death of Sarah at the age of 127, in the city of Hebron. Abraham approaches the people of Het to ask for a burial place. They tell him that he can chose any burial place in their city, but Abraham has his eyes on the Cave of Machpelah, which he wishes to purchase and turn into a burial site for his family. After some negotiations with Efron, the owner of the Cave, Abraham purchases the Cave and the field around it. He then buries Sarah.

This portion also ends with the passing of Abraham. His sons Isaac and Yishmael bury him in the Cave of Machpelah. This is the place where our founding Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried. Jewish legend has it that Adam and Eve are also buried there. This is why it is called Kiryat Arba - The City of the Four - Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.

Hebron has always been a place of contention between Arabs and Jews. There has always been a Jewish presence in Hebron because of the sacred place of burial of our Founding Parents. There have been many massacres committed there by the Arab population against the Jews. The most famous is the massacre of 1929, when 67 Jews were massacred - including the chief rabbi - along with hundreds injured. After the 1929 massacre, the British did not allow Jews to move back to Hebron, for fear of more killings.

With the Declaration of Independence in 1948 and with the armistice that followed, holy places were supposed to be open to all - Jews, Moslems and Christians - including the Western Wall, Hebron and Bethlehem (where Rachel is buried); however, Jordan did not allow Jews into these place. With the liberation of these places in 1967, Jews began to flock on Pilgrimage to the Wall, Hebron and Bethlehem. A Yeshiva and a Jewish neighborhood have been established again in Hebron. This past weekend, in conjunction with the reading of the death of Abraham and Sarah, thousands of Jews travelled from all over Israel to Hebron, on a pilgrimage to our ancestors' place of burial. They had to be accompanied by thousands of soldiers to prevent attacks by Palestinians.

The events in this portion of Chaye Sarah may have happened 3500 years ago - when Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpela for a burial site - however this place continues to be part of the life of the Jewish people and Jewish experience to this day. After all, that's where our founders have been laid to rest. Will the Palestinians ever agree to share these places in peace?

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram