Also known as City of Arba, el-Khalil, Hevron, Kiriath-Arba, Kirjath Arba

The Machpelah

Genesis 23 records the purchase by Abraham of a plot of ground in Hebron for a burial cave for his wife Sarah.  In a deal that foreshadows many such other Middle Eastern deals, Abraham paid an outrageous 400 shekels of silver to Ephron the Hittite.  Later Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah would be buried here.

Herodian Construction

Herod the Great constructed a large edifice atop the traditional burial place of the patriarchs.  Its architectural style is similar to that of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, including the size of the stones (up to 24 feet long), the type of masonry (dry), and the pilasters (engaged columns), the last of which are no longer visible in Jerusalem.

Machpelah Interior

The cenotaphs of Abraham and Sarah were added after the city moved to surround this complex in 8th century AD.  All the cenotaphs were in their present position by the 10th century AD.  The Mamluks gave the cenotaphs of Jacob and Leah their present form in the 14th century.

Cenotaph of Isaac

Three major rooms make up the Machpelah.  In the center are Abraham and Sarah.  On the east side are Isaac and Rebekah; the Jewish people are allowed to visit here only ten days a year.  On the west side are the cenotaphs of Jacob and Leah.  Rachel was buried near Bethlehem.

The pulpit (minbar) was made in 1091 for a mosque in Ashkelon and donated by Saladin in 1191.

Crusader Ceiling

Ownership of the Machpelah has changed with each conquering army.  The Byzantines converted it into a church before the Muslims conquered and made it a mosque.  The Crusaders and Mamluks then made it a church and a mosque again, respectively.  The interior of the compound was originally not roofed; the ceiling is the work of Crusader artisans.

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Related Websites

Hebron (Walking in Their Sandals)  Gives easy-to-read information on the location, biblical significance, etc.  Features links to photographs and on-line Scripture references.

Hebron (Christian Travel Study Program)  Highlights the religious significance of the site for both Jews and Christians.  Gives a brief history of the Cave of Machpelah through periods of conquest and change.

Hebron (Into His Own)  A brief, encyclopedia-type article with links to related words, topics and sources for further study.

Machpelah (Catholic Encyclopedia)  A detailed, very descriptive article which discusses various contributions to traditions concerning of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Machpelah (WebBible Encyclopedia, ChristianAnswers.Net)  Interests the reader with both physically and biblically descriptive facts, including internal links to related topics.

Hebron: Historical Background and Statistics (Israel MFA)  An interesting and informative article, providing a detailed historical background on the city and details on the Jewish community present here today.  A section giving insight into the delicate peace-keeping process in the community is also included.  Copy of this page at Jewish Virtual Library.

Welcome to Hevron (israelVisit)  Offers a brief description of the Cave of Machpelah and the religious/political controversy surrounding it.  Features several nice photographs on main page and provided links.

Welcome to the Jewish Community of Hebron The official page of the modern Jewish community.  Its residents continue to maintain their presence in the city where the “roots of the Jewish people” are found.

Jewish Hebron (Ahavat Eretz Israel)  Tells the story of the struggle for the survival of a Jewish presence in the city with deep roots to the patriarch Abraham.  Copy of this page atCrystalinks.

Meoras Ha’machpelah (Camp S’dei Chemed International)  Gives a concise history of the area from a distinctly Jewish perspective.

Hebron: the Disputed Birthright (Out There News)  Captures the struggle between two opposing peoples in a community which remains at the heart of the conflict.

Jewish settlers in Hebron claim they have history on their side (Sydney Morning Herald)  Provides interesting insight into the on-going conflict, commenting on security measures to protect the Jewish community in Hebron.