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Emet m'Tsiyon

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Part 5 of John Lloyd Stephens account of his stay with Jews in Hebron in 1836
pp 319-320 in his book cited in Part One

"Hebron . . . is now a small Arab town . . . The present inhabitants are the wildest, most lawless, and desperate people in the Holy Land. . . In the last desperate revolution against Mohammed Ali [in 1834] , they were foremost in the strife, the first to draw the sword, and the last to return it to its scabbard. A petty Turk now wields the scepter of the son of Jesse [that is, now governs Hebron as did David son of Jesse] and a small remnant of a despised and persecuted people [the Jews] still hover round the graves of their fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all buried in Hebron]; and though degraded and trampled under foot, from the very dust in which they lie [the Jews] are still looking to the restoration of their temporal kingdom.
"Accompanied by my Jewish friends, I visited the few spots [in Hebron] which tradition marks as connected with scenes of Bible history. Passing through the bazars at the extreme end, and descending a few steps, we entered a vault containing a large monument, intended in memory of Abner, the greatest captain of his age, the favored and for a long time trusted officer of David, who, as the Jews told me, was killed in battle near Hebron, and his body brought here and buried. The great mosque [the Tomb of the Patriarchs made into a mosque], the walls of which, the Jews say, are built with the ruins of the temple of Solomon, according to the belief of the Mussulmans and the better authority of the Jews, covers the site of the Cave of Machpelah, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite; and within its sacred precincts are the supposed tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The doors were guarded with jealous care by the bigoted Mussulmans; and when with my Jewish companion, I stopped for a moment to look up at the long marble staircase leading to the tomb of Abraham, a Turk came out from the bazars, and, with furious gesticulations, gathered a crowd around us; and a Jew and a Christian were driven with contempt from the sepulchre of the patriarch whom they both revered. A special firman [decree] from the pasha, or perhaps a large bribe to the governor, might have procured me a private admission; but death or the Koran would have been the penalty required by the bigoted people of Hebron."

Here Stephens describes the prohibition on non-Muslims going into the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a ban in effect since Sultan Baybars circa 1260. He stresses the belligerent, aggressive, and warlike character of the local Arabs, demonstrated especially in the revolt against Muhammud Ali of Egypt in 1834. He also stresses the bigotry and religious-ethnic fanaticism of the local Arab-Muslims.
Stephens uses the word "Turk" in the loose sense used at that time to refer to Muslims generally. Like Marx in the blog items below, he uses the word "Mussulman" instead of Muslim.
Stephens mentions a link between the Temple and the Tomb. Jewish archeologists and historians today agree on a connection between the Second Temple and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, regrettably turned into a mosque after the Arab conquest. Both grand structures were built by King Herod. Indeed, there are certain resemblances between the way the stones were cut, their size, and the general design of the walls of both the Tomb and the Second Temple, on those parts of the Second Temple still visible today. In fact, much of the western wall and southern wall of the Second Temple, plus the broad, grand steps leading up to the southern wall are visible now, some parts having been uncovered in excavations since 1967, some parts of the western wall now visible in the tunnel running along the western wall which has been open in part to visitors since about 1990. When Jerusalem mayor Olmert opened a second entrance to the tunnel in 1996, Arafat used this as a pretext to start a mini-war in which about a hundred people were killed, mostly Arabs, but he did make political gains out of that war, although he had used a lie to start it, lying that the tunnel went under the Temple Mount. As said, the tunnel runs alongside the western wall.


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