AN AMERICAN AMONG JEWS IN HEBRON -- Part 4
Part 4 of John Lloyd Stephens in Hebron
"... my Jewish friends conducted me around their miserable quarter. They had few lions to show me, but they took me to their synagogue, in which an old white-bearded Israelite was teaching some prattling children to read the laws of Moses in the language of their fathers; and when the sun was setting in the west and the Muezzin from the top of the minaret was calling the sons of the faithful to evening prayers, the old rabbi and myself, a Jew and a Christian, were sitting on the roof of the little synagogue, looking out as by stealth upon the sacred mosque [Note: the Cave of Machpelah (= Tomb of the Patriarchs) which the Muslims made into a mosque] containing the hallowed ashes of their [the Israelites'] patriarch fathers. The Turk guards entered the door, and the Jew and the Christian are not permitted to enter; and the old rabbi was pointing to the different parts of the mosque, where, as he told me, under tombs adorned with carpets of silk and gold, rested the mortal remains of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
NOTES: Abraham's purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is described in the Book of Genesis. He bought it to bury his wife Sarah. All the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel (but for Rachel) are believed buried there, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. However, Jacob's other wife, Rachel, is buried not in Hebron but on the edge of Bethlehem, where her tomb has been under siege by PLO/PA terrorists and PA police (often the same persons) over the past five years; at least one Israeli soldier has been killed at that tomb.
Arabs claim descent from Abraham through his son Ishmael. Abraham [in Arabic, Ibrahim] is considered to have been a Friend of God, hence the Arabs call the city al-Khalil [= the friend]. Curiously, the very name Hebron contains the root consonants --HBR-- of the Hebrew word for friend, haber. The Tomb of the Patriarchs is called by Muslims the Mosque of Abraham [al-Masjid al-Ibrahimi]. In line with the usual Muslim practice of confiscating and appropriating the holy places of other religions, such as Ayodhya in India, they took over the tomb of the Israelite patriarchs after conquering Israel from the Byzantine empire (ca. 638). For a long period, the Tomb was open to Jews and Christians as well as Muslims. However, in the late Crusader period, the Mamluk ruler, Baybars, shut the Tomb off to Jews and Christians (circa 1261). Jews were only allowed to go up to the seventh step ascending towards the entrance of the Tomb.
Jews lived in Hebron continuously at least from the late Crusader period --if not continuously from Biblical times-- until 1929, when 68 Jews were massacred in Hebron by an Arab mob incited by Haj Amin el-Husseini [al-Husayni]. The mob, the massacre, and the incitement were tolerated by the British rulers of the country at the time [see books by Pierre van Paassen, Albert Londres, etc.]. After the massacre British forces showed up to remove the Jews from the city, for their own good of course. The British refused to provide protection for the Jewish population in Hebron.
When John Lloyd Stephens visited Hebron in 1836, the ban on Jewish entry into the Tomb of their forefathers was in effect, and moreover, the Jews were confined to living in a small ghetto surrounded by a wall. They were subject to regular humiliations as mandated by Muslim law for dhimmis and mentioned in a previous blog item in quotes from Karl Marx, including one passage regarding the situation of the Jews in Jerusalem. During the local uprising against Muhammud Ali of Egypt in 1834 [described in an earlier blog item], the Jews in Hebron were attacked by both sides. Several were killed and their property plundered.
This was Part 4 of eight parts of John Lloyd Stephens' account of his visit to Hebron in 1836. Others will follow.
We expect to soon upload a blog item on a PLO/Palestinian Authority liar shown up by a fellow Arab.