Hebron, city of the Patriarchs, plays host to a variety of concerts and festivals each holiday season, and the upcoming Passover season is no exception. Thousands of tourists are expected to descend upon the city; last year, over 50,000 people attended the festivities.
Passover, which marks the birth of Issac, is an especially auspicious time for Jews to visit Hebron. The grave of Issac is closed off to Jews throughout the year and is only open certain times a year. One of these times is Passover.
David Wilder, spokesman for the community of Hebron, explained the awesomeness revolving around the annual Jewish pilgrimage to Hebron each year.
“How fitting it is that tens of thousands of Jews flock to Hebron during the festivals of Passover and Succot,” Wilder said. “Here, at the very roots of the Jewish people, Jews continue to display their affinity to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the founders of the Jewish people, at the very place where we began.”
Wilder estimates that “almost one million people visit Hebron annually, worshiping at Ma’arat HaMachpela, and touring the other holy sites in the city.Many people return, not once, not twice, but every year, while visiting Israel. This, in order to tangibly express their solidarity with Hebron of the past, and with Hebron of the present, the current Jewish community of Hebron, in order to ensure and continued Jewish Hebron in the future, for our children’s children’s children. Hebron, ‘Meaz uletamid’ – Hebron, Past, Present and Forever!”
Since Hebron is also a hotbed of political and religious tension, however, the IDF is already holding drills to ensure the safety of those in attendance.
On Tuesday, IDF soldiers in the Yehuda Brigade held a drill to simulate a mass-casualty terrorist attack in the area, the Brigade’s Operations Branch Captain, Major Amir Friedman, told Arutz Sheva.
We simulated an event with wounded casualties in two centers, and checked the forces’ activities,” remarked Friedman. “We practiced opening an alternate route in the case that the route was blocked to traffic, preventing the arrival of rescue forces, and also the opening of a third route in the case of such a need.”
Among the exercises, soldiers practiced clearing space for emergency helicopters to land, as well as areas for gathering and triage. They also prepared for the possibility of additional terrorists being identified in the area and for other scenarios.
Other groups taking part in the drill included Security forces from the Kiryat Arba-Hebron Council soldiers from Nachal’s Brigade 932, Brigade 601 of the Engineering Corps, Brigade 77 of the Armored Corps, as well as border guard and police forces.
IDF vigilance is not misplaced. Two weeks ago, a senior Hamas terrorist was caught in Hebron, having been released by the Palestinian Authority. The man had been wanted for many years for his role in the Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War, a massive terrorist campaign against Israel that began in 2000.
More recently, soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian caught attempting to break through the security barrier in the area Wednesday morning. Earlier that same morning, a weapons cache was uncovered in the nearby Arab village of Beit Rima. The cache included mortar shells, guns, night-vision equipment, stun grenades, helmets, 15 rubber bullets and army boots. Another sizeable cache had been found in Hebron back in January.
The Hebron and Kiryat Arba communities have an extra reason to celebrate this year. The High Court of Justice recently ruled the purchase of the city’s Peace House by Jews to be a legal transaction, ending a six-year legal struggle.