Machpela in Hebron – Whose cave is it?

This week’s Torah portion begins with our Matriarch Sarah’s death and Avraham’s purchase of the Machpelah Cave in Hebron as a family burial plot. (Chaiye Sarah Gen: 23)

The Torah goes into great detail about the negotiations between Avraham and Ephron who was the owner of the field and the cave complex in it. The purchase is negotiated in public, the purchase price is made known to everyone watching and they witness Abraham count out the money and hand it over to Ephron.

The Torah serves as the deed proving ownership of the place by Avraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob.

Eventually, not only will Sarah be buried here, but also Avraham, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah (Rachel is buried on the road to Beit Lehem in Rachel’s Tomb).

Above is a photo from our recent visit to site of the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.

The Romans

Herod built the large rectangular building above the Cave complex to commemorate the site for the Nation of Israel. It is the only fully surviving Herodian building!

The Byzantines

As usual the Byzantines came along in the 4th century and built a basilica to co-opt it as a Christian pilgrimage site.

The Arab Muslims

And right on cue, the Arab Muslim invaders came along in the 7th century and converted it into a mosque.

The Christian Crusaders

But wait… along come the Crusaders in 1100 and turned it back into a Church and banned Jews from visiting the site.

More Muslims

Saladin conquered the site for the Muslims again in 1188 and turned it back into a mosque. Note the two minarets (towers)

Arab Muslims controlled the site through the Ayyubid, Mameluke and Ottoman periods until the British mandate.

Back to Israel — sort of.

In 1967 the Nation of Israel took control of the site as a result of the miracles of the 6-Day war and there is now shared access of the site. There are Jewish prayer services held in part of the building during designated times.


That when Abraham died his “sons Yitzchak and Yishmael buried him in the Cave of Machpelah…” (Gen:25:9)


Wasn’t he banished and disinherited with his mother Hagar in last week’s Torah portion? (See Gen:21:14-21)

The Sages teach us that Yishmael repented (did teshuva) about wanting to kill his brother Isaac in order to be the sole inheritor of Avraham’s covenant over the land. (Which was why Sarah had him banished along with Hagar).

The proof of his repentance is that he defers to his brother Isaac during the burial of Avraham. Yitzchak is mentioned first and Yishmael is mentioned second.

Even though many of Yishmael’s descendants (including extremest Palestinian Arabs) currently want to eliminate any Jewish presence in the Land and “push us into the sea”, eventually they will do teshuva (repent) and recognize the Nation of Israel as God’s firstborn. (Exodus 4:22)

Thank you so much for your support!

With blessings,
Shmuel Veffer
Galilee Green

Machpela in Hebron – Whose cave is it?

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