This is the scene on the road between Jerusalem and Hebron, also known as Derech Avos, the Way of the Patriarchs. You can see an Arab farmer tending his vines at upper right, with his donkey gamboling nearby. That donkey had a lot to say. We stopped for lunch in Kiryas Arba, where I had the best falafel ever. From here we drove to the Cave of Machpelah, second holiest site to Jews. We were greeted by this very happy scene:
It's a throne for a bride, from which she greets guests and receives traditional compliments. In Herod's time a fortified wall was erected around the cave; later on Crusaders, Mamelukes, and Ottomans added onto to the structure above the caves themselves. Inside are synagogues around where the patriarchs are buried. This is the one where the wedding took place:
The cenotaphs of the patriarchs and matriarchs are covered with elaborated embroidered cloths. We could not see the ones of Isaac or Rebecca, for Jews are only allowed to go there 10 days out of the year. Isaac, you may recall, was the son of Abraham by Sarah and the father of Jacob and Esau.
Tradition holds that these cenotaphs are those of Adam and Eve. There are bones buried in the caves under the cenotaphs but archaeological exploration is no longer done (I think it ceased in 1927).
This is the cenotaph of Avrohom Avinu, Abraham our Father. Seeing this sent chills up my spine: this was something I heard about, learned about when I was such a small child and could only hope to see someday.
This is Sarah's cenotaph. It was for her burial that Abraham bought Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, as recounted in Genesis 23: 2-16. Ephron wanted to give Machpelah and the fields around it to Abraham out of respect. Abraham demurred and offered fair market value: 400 silver shekels. Ephron accepted and drew up a contract of sale. So Machpelah became the family burial plot for Abraham and his descendants. My mother, may she rest in peace, was a Sarah.
We spent a bit of time here, prayed the afternoon service (Minchah), took photos of the other cenotaphs, then headed to Hebron. There's a beautiful old synagogue there known as the Avrohom Avinu synagogue. Some Jews fleeing Spain in 1492 brought their Torah scrolls here.
We ended the day at Kever Rachel, Rachel's Tomb, on the road to Bethlechem. This is the third holiest to Jews, and a very auspicious place to pray, especially for women. DD#1 is a Rachel, so it has special meaning for me to pray here for her, her sister, and for my entire family. Sitting in the synagogue here I felt that miracles could occur around me.
After the intense experience of Kever Rachel it was time to head back to Jerusalem. More adventures will come in my next posts.