Tomb of the Patriarchs

   Located in the ancient city of Hebron, the Cave of the Patriarchs (Machpelah) is considered holy by Jews and Arabs alike. According to Jewish tradition, its hidden twin caves are considered to be the burial place of four "pairs" of patriarchs and matriarchs: Adam and Eve; Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah; and Jacob and Leah. According to the Bible, Abraham paid 400 shekels of silver to purchase the cave as a burial plot for his family after his wife Sarah died (Genesis 23). Observant Jews consider this to be the first material purchase of real estate by the Jews in the land of Canaan. Abraham was subsequently buried in the Machpela along with the other Jewish patriarchs and most of their wives; Rachel was buried in a tomb near Bethlehem. Muslims, who consider Abraham a patriarch, also worship at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, although they call it the Ibrahim Mosque.
   The tomb has been the scene and cause of tension for many years. Under Ottoman rule, it was declared a mosque, and Jews were not allowed past the seventh step on a staircase outside the building. In 1929, devout Jews residing in Hebron near the Tomb were murdered by Arab rioters. In February 1994, Arabs worshipping in the Ibrahim Mosque were murdered by Baruch Goldstein, a deranged resident of the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba. In January 1997, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization concluded an agreement whereby Israel withdrew from 80 percent of the city of Hebron; responsibility for security at the Tomb of the Patriarchs was transferred to the Palestinian security forces. However, Israeli forces temporarily retook control over security at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 2002 as part of Operation Defensive Shield.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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