New record for Shabbat Hebron - 45,000 enjoy historic city

Woodstock meets the Bible, as festive, picnic atmosphere accompanies reading of Torah portion.

24.11.19, 16:44
An all-time record was set for Shabbat Hebron this year as between 45,000-50,000 people attended the world's largest Shabbat experience. Every year, corresponding to the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, tens of thousands visit the city where the events recorded in the Bible took place. The chapter in Genesis in which Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpela for his beloved wife was read on location. 
 
People from Israel and around the world camped out in tents and trailers, slept in schools or enjoyed home hospitality in a festive picnic atmosphere that resembles Lag BaOmer in Meron and other large-scale Jewish festivals. The Egged national bus company arranged special bus lines from Jerusalem for the extra traffic.
 
The Hebron Fund, which is the local sponsor of the Jewish community, once again arranged a special VIP tour with catered meals. Hebron Fund participants included tourist from America and other countries, new immigrants, and long-time residents. Guests lecturers attended the Hebron Fund dinner held at the Gutnick Center next to the Tomb of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs. They included reserved IDF general Uzi Dayan, who expressed pride in the Jewish community for establishing a normalized civilian presence in what was once off-limits to Jewish visitors during the Jordanian period.
 
A native-born Israeli, the son of native-born Israelis, he predicted a population of 20,000 by the time of the country's 100th anniversary in 2048 and marveled as how far the nation has progressed in his lifetime. 
 
Also speaking at the Hebron Fund dinner was Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who has served as a government minister and Member of Knesset in various capacities for the past six years. Ben-Dahan reminisced about when he served as an assistant to Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and described the venerable sage's first visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs following its liberation in the Six Day War of 1967. He recalled Rabbi Eliyahu stating that it was less like a tourist visiting a sacred holy site and more like a homecoming as a child returning to his parent's house after a long time away. 
 
Colonel Itamar Ben Chaim, commander of the Judea Brigade also spoke about the commitment to protect the city and surrounding areas and his honor to serve in this capacity.
 
Among the other government representatives that joined the masses were Minister of Education Rafi Peretz, Minister of Environmental Affairs Ze'ev Elkin, Minister of Transportation Bezalel Smotrich, Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, MK Michael Malchieli, MK Michal Shir Segman, MK Mordechai Yogev, director general of the Ministry of Religious Affairs Oded Plus, former MK Orit Struk, and mayor of Hebron Hillel Horowitz.
 
Other guest speakers included David M. Weinberg, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and Rabbi Eitan Shnerb, the head of an educational institution in Lod who was injured in a terrorist attack that claimed the life of his 17-year-old daughter in August. 
 
The event ended with a Saturday night barbecue in which Israel Defense Force soldiers and Hebron Fund tour participants joined together for food and dancing.
 
The Hall of Isaac and Rebecca was open to the public, location of the memorial monuments of the Biblical Patriarchs Isaac and Rebecca and location of the sealed-up entrance to the actual underground burial chambers.
 
A special magazine insert from HaMizrachi was prepared which included articles by Rabbi Herschel Schacter, who explained that Sarah's funeral at the Cave of Machpela was the first Jewish burial in history. Other influential educators who contributed to the special Chayei Sarah publication included Rabbi Berel Wein, Rabbi Zev Leff, Sivan Rahav Meir, and other influential public figures. Articles about Hebron by historic figures such as David Ben-Gurion were published as well. HaMizrachi is a publication of the World Mizrachi Movement, which was founded in 1902 and linked to the Bnei Akiva youth movement. For the full issue click here: https://view.flipdocs.com/?ID=10004239_798843
 
OU Torah Tidbits released a special issue for the event as well.
 
Others who worked tirelessly for the event were Rabbi Daniel Rosenstein, executive director of the Hebron Fund, Uri Karzen, director of the Jewish community of Hebron, Yishai Fleisher, international spokesperson for the Jewish community of Hebron, Yoni Bliechbard, chief security officer of Hebron, Noam Arnon, Hebrew-language spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, local community coordinator Elimelech Karzen, events coordinator Ashi Horowitz, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum who led a tour of the city, and tourism coordinator Sarah Edri who led a tour of the Tomb of Machpela complex and explained the cultural and historical significance of the architecture. 
 
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שבת חיי שרה תש"פ: 45,000 משתתפים! | צילום: מנדי הכטמן | 94 תמונות
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