While the holiday of “Jerusalem Day” was marked with great fanfare on Sunday, June 2nd, today marks the 52nd anniversary of “Hebron Day” when the IDF liberated Judaism’s second holiest city in a thrilling military conquest.
The story of the liberation of Hebron during the Six Day War is nothing short of miraculous, as a single Israeli soldier, a rabbi at that, seized the entire city of Hebron without having to fire a shot.
On June 8, 1967, the Chief Rabbi (and General) of the Israel Defense Forces, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, drove into the city. Through a misunderstanding, he entered ahead of the IDF forces. He was, at that moment, the only Jew in the city. He was greeted by the sight of white sheets hung from rooftops and windows throughout the city. He understood that the 1967 Arabs of Hebron surrendered, frightened of Jewish retaliation (decades prior, Arab residents of Hebron had massacred 67 Jews).
Upon the Jordanian surrender, Rabbi Goren and a small group of soldiers entered the Tomb of Machpela to blow the shofar and read from the Torah, just as they had 24 hours prior to the when he had taken part in the liberation of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
According to the Hebron Fund, “this marked the first time in 700 years that Jews, Christians and non-muslims were permitted to freely enter and pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs,” as the ancient building had been restricted by the Mamluks who invaded from Egyptian centuries before and forbade any Jew, Christian or non- Muslim to pray closer than the seventh step.
Until 1967, Muslims controlled the building and did not let Jews enter their holy site – they could only pray outside of the Cave of Machpela and could not go past the infamous “seventh step” of the staircase leading to the tomb. Those who attempted to go past the seventh step were beaten by the Arab guards stationed in the area.
Finally, Jews had returned to their precious Hebron and Tomb of Machpela. Jews and Israelis see the day as proof of God’s hand in the land. According to Rabbi Goren, after he hung an Israeli flag outside of the Tomb and brought a Sefer Torah inside, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan ordered him to take down the flag and remove the Sefer Torah and take off his shoes before entering, as the site had been a Mosque. Rabbi Goren refused, so Dayan sent an officer into Hebron to remove the objects. After that officer was killed in a car accident on his way back from Jerusalem, Dayan rescinded his order to remove shoes in the Tomb.
Today, 700,000 tourists per year visit Hebron to peak into the past and see for themselves the renewal of Jewish communities in the area. Tours of ancient Hebron are available year round, with popular sites including museums, synagogues, archaeological sites and of course, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
According to Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman of the Jewish community of Hebron, “while Jerusalem is theological – where God is – Hebron is genealogical – where the founders of our nation followed God and became the first commonwealth in the land. In some ways, Hebron is the ancestor of Jerusalem and now, we are back there today.”
Fleisher told Breaking Israel News, “Just as we have returned to Jerusalem to live there, so too have we returned to Hebron, where we have done a lot to normalize Jewish life. While Jerusalem is important to us as our ancient capital and seat of the Temple, Hebron is David’s first capital and the seat of the forefathers and mothers.”
According to Fleisher, one who visits Hebron will learn about “Jewish continuity and connection to the people who started it all,” adding, “that’s the real gift of Hebron.”
Approximately 700,000 people per year visit Hebron, located about an hour’s drive south of Jerusalem.
Tourists and locals alike, interested in sightseeing and participating in prayer services with experienced and local guides can book a tour with The Hebron Fund. Special coach buses depart from weekly from Jerusalem.
In honor of “Hebron Day”, the Jewish community of Hebron celebrated on the evening of June 2nd, commemorating Hebron’s 52nd year of liberation. The Jewish community of Hebron celebrated Yom Hebron with parades, inflatables for kids, food and games.