Any time anyone talks about peace among the three main monotheistic religions, they are always referred to as the “children of Abraham”.
And yet the tomb of the Patriarch that is common
to Jews, Christians and Muslims continues to be the catalyst of hatred
and conflict between these religions.
Tensions are running high again in
Hebron, the Holy Land city which is home the Tomb of Patriarchs. The Tomb – which is believed to be Abraham’s burial place – has been a place of worship for some millennia.
What sparked the tensions was the murder of
Sergent Gal Kobi, an Israeli soldier who was shot by a sniper,
near the site which is known to the Jews as the me'arat ha-Machpela (The Cave of Machpelah) and to the Muslims as the al-masjid al-Ibrāhīmī
(the Sanctuary of Abraham).
The murder took place just as Israel
celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot.
The soldier was escorting
some Jews who had gone to pray at the site which is situated inside
Not surprisingly, the Israeli army responded with a
series of stops and searches in an attempt to find the sniper who fired
But the toughest reaction came from the political sphere:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorised the entry of
Jews to Machpelah House, which is located near the contested holy site.
Last year, a Jewish organisation purchased Machpelah House through some
intermediaries. Before this, they had been forbidden from moving into
the building in order to prevent further tensions in a city that is home
to 200 thousand Palestinians. 7 thousand Israelis live in a high
security part of Hebron’s Old City.
The Tomb of Patriarchs has been
divided by a pane of bulletproof glass to allow each religious community to pray at the tomb of Abraham separately.
Hebron’s history is a
perfect illustration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Tomb of
Patriarchs occupies a hugely important place in Jewish history. As the
Book of Genesis says, the Cave of Machpelah was purchased by Abraham to
use a burial plot for his wife Sarah (before his own death).
reason it is considered the earliest evidence of the Promised Land. A
small community of Jews continued to lived here, alongside Muslims, even
during the diaspora. This was until the 1929 pogrom, when 67 Jews from
Hebron were brutally killed in the early clashes between Arab
nationalists and Zionists.
Britain responded with a drastic and perhaps
even more traumatic decision: they moved all Jews out of Abraham’s city
for security reasons. Then, in 1967, after the Six-Day War, a group of
Jews decided to settle in Hebron again.
But this time they had the army
on their side. This marked the start of new clashes which culminated in
the bloodbath of 26 February 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, a Jew, opened
fire on a group of Muslims who were on their way to the Tomb of
Patriarchs to pray. About 60 people died on that occasion, including the
29 people Goldstein killed and other victims of the violence which
The Hebron massacre of 1994 marked the first
serious stop to the peace process launched a month before with the Oslo
Accords signed by Rabin and Arafat.
The fear therefore, is that tensions
surrounding Abraham’s Tomb will yet again blow out the feeble flame of
negotiations which resumed between Israelis and Palestinians just a few