As they have done for almost a quarter century, thousands plan to visit Hebron for the annual Shabbat Hebron to celebrate the reading of the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah (“Life of Sarah”), describing the purchase of the Cave of Machpela in Hebron by biblical patriarch Abraham as a burial plot for his beloved wife Sarah.
The Torah notes in great detail that Abraham, father of monotheism, insisted on paying full price for his first purchase of land in Israel, even though the local Hittites said they were perfectly happy to give it to him for free.
And he spoke unto Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: ‘But if thou wilt, I pray thee, hear me: I will give the price of the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.’ Genesis 23:13
The connection between the coming Torah portion and Hebron has made this holy city a prime destination this Shabbat, and an estimated 20,000 guests are expected to stay in Hebron and in Kiryat Arba next door.
Shabbat Hebron became an organized happening almost 25 years ago and has grown exponentially over the years. Every year, the local Jewish community prepares logistically for this mass migration of visitors with food, security, and home hospitality. Also, the Hall of Rebecca and Isaac, the largest in the Tomb of Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs), will open for Jewish services, one of the ten days out of the year that the space is accessible.
This year, Shabbat Hebron will fall on November 25-26, the first time since 2005 that coincides with the Thanksgiving holiday. The Hebron Fund has organized a special Chayei Sarah mission for English speakers from abroad, including tours and other activities.
Last year, due to the wave of deadly terrorist attacks, there was a sharp decrease in attendance. The usually joyful, picnic-like atmosphere was marred by a terrorist sniper who wounded two civilians, including a visiting American college student named Eli Borochov. Despite being shot in the leg, Borochov expressed a desire to return this year. His father, Ronen Borochov, told Israeli news media that he promises to come back this Shabbat, with his children. “Terror won’t defeat us,” he stated. “The answer to the terrorists is that I will come to Hebron, not with just one child but with my whole family.”
This year’s festivities will also feature special mass free Shabbat meals. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, Chabad of Hebron is sponsoring three free first-class meals. These will take place under a giant tent which will feature 300 yards of special graphic printing telling the Jewish story of Hebron through the ages. The tent will accommodate 3,000 guests, making the event the largest Shabbat gathering in the world. These Shabbat meals will be lavish, and feature waiters.
Incidentally, Chabad of Hebron and the Jewish community of Hebron have been cooperating since the 1800’s. Rabbi Danny and Batsheva Cohen, the Shluchim (ambassadors) of Chabad of Hebron, continue in that tradition, and provide a Jewish connection to soldiers and visitors, like all the other Chabad Houses worldwide.
Also expected to join the celebrations: Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamiel, Minister of Religious Affairs David Azulai, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Dahan, Minister of Environmental Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, MK Moti Yogev, MK Betzalel Smotrich, former MK Orit Struk, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, and noted attorney and Hebron donor Yoram Sheftel.