Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
A Covenant of Eternity
by David Wilder
A Covenant of Eternity
May 12, 1995
Last Friday morning, on the 5th of May, (which also happened to be the 5th of Iyar-Israel Independence Day), I, along with my wife Ora, had an overwhelming experience, the likes of which I have never yet encountered in my life. For the previous Thursday evening, at 8:00 PM Israeli time, Ora gave birth to our seventh child, a boy, in a Jerusalem hospital. Ora, a “Sabra” of Sepharadic ancestry, and I have been married for almost 16 years. Our oldest (of 4) girls is going on 15 and the oldest of three sons is almost 14.
Following our new son’s birth, we decided to celebrate his entrance into the Covenant of our Forefather Abraham (known as a Brit Milah – or circumcision) at the site most fitting for such an event: Ma’arat HaMachpela – the Caves of the Patriarchs, in Hebron. The massive building that covers the ancient caves is 2,000 years old, built by Herod during the Second Temple Period. It is the largest Jewish monument in the world, and the only 2,000 year-old building existing in its entirety. For the Jewish People, this structure is extremely symbolic of Jewish History – for 700 years, from 1267 until 1967 Jews were not allowed into it. They were permitted to pray by the infamous “seventh step” leading to the entrance of the building, but no further. Only after we returned to Hebron in 1967 were Jews once again allowed inside. Even at that time, and for many years following our return to Hebron, Jews were not allowed to perform a Brit Milah inside Ma’arat HaMachpela because of Islamic laws forbidding any drinking of alcoholic beverages. Because wine (or grape juice) is necessary at a Brit, Jews were forbidden to partake of such a ceremony. (If anyone understands the logic, please write and explain it to me.) However, after many years of determined struggle, we were victorious. Israeli’s may now perform a Brit Milah inside the Ma’ara.
However, it should be noted that the importance of the Caves of the Patriarchs is not the huge Herodian building, but rather the caves ensconced under it. These caves, the burial ground purchased by Abraham, to bury his wife Sarah thousands of years ago, was the first land purchased by a Jew in Eretz Yisrael. This is where it all started – the roots of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. This was the first act , dramatizing the covenant between the Jewish People and their Creator, in their Homeland. MK Ariel Sharon, speaking at the Ma’ara said: “What other nation in the world can make such a claim – all our Patriarchs and Matriarchs buried in one place – the roots of our nation. I would bring every schoolchild, every tourist here. I would bring every ambassador arriving in Israel to Ma’arat HaMachpela before showing him any other place in Israel. This is where the Jewish People began, in Hebron.”
What then would be more fitting than to continue to renew our eternal covenant at this same site? So at 10:00 AM on Friday morning, eight days after the birth, we gathered, friends and family, in “Ohel Avraham” the Abraham Hall, inside Ma’arat HaMachpela, to celebrate the addition of a new Jew, and new Israeli, to the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. The “Sandak” or Godfather was Rav Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron. He held the baby as the ceremony was performed. The baby was named Raphael Baruch Yair in memory of two close friends from Kiryat Arba-Hebron murdered by Arabs.
As you might well imagine, it is very difficult to describe the emotions felt by a father and mother participating in an ancient rite, at the site where the originator of the observance lies in eternal rest. I can only say that I wish upon each and every one of you, and of all of the People of Israel, the privilege to feel what we felt and what we continue to feel – having been merited the honor to be an active link in the eternal chain, bonding the People of Israel to the Land of Israel, according to Jewish Law and tradition. You should all be granted such happiness.