A Special Sabbath in Hebron
Hebron a focal point of the controversy of Zion.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
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Thousands of Jews from Israel and all over the world converge on Hebron this weekend for a significant and festive Sabbath honouring the Jewish reading of the Torah portion called Chayei Sarah, which is Genesis 23:1 - 25:18. Even as Jews gathered to Hebron, the city of Abraham to celebrate, seven left wing demonstrators were arrested for causing a disturbance protesting the Jewish presence in the ancient city. The city of Hebron is often in the news. Today it is a divided city of conflict and a difficult place for Jews to live; a place where there is a great danger of Arab terrorism and where they are harassed by left wing provocateurs.
To suggest that Jews should not live in the city of Hebron because they are Jewish, is problematic. Especially when we remember that the very roots of the Jewish people come to this place. This week's Torah portion which is being celebrated in Hebron is described by Israel National News: "The Torah portion describes the Biblical patriarch Abraham’s purchase of the Machpelah Cave in Hevron as a burial site for his wife Sarah. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham, Sarah, their son Yitzchak (Isaac) and his wife Rivka (Rebecca), and Yaakov (Jacob) and his wife Leah are all buried in the cave." When visiting Hebron today, one can stand in the very gate where Abraham bought the field and the cave from the sons of Heth as recorded in Genesis.
"And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth." (Genesis 23:17-20)
The miracle of the return of the Jews to the land of Israel after almost 2 millennia is the greatest sign of the times, spoken of by so many of the Hebrew prophets. The return to Hebron is also a fulfillment of prophecy. Consider Isaiah 61:3,4 where the prophet says:
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations."
Surprisingly there has almost always been a small Jewish community in Hebron, even through the period of the diaspora. There were Jews living in Hebron almost continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods. Up until 1929 there was a peaceful Jewish community in Hebron, which coexisted with the Arab population quite well. But the the 1929 Arab riots broke out and in Hebron many Jews lost their lives. In the book "Israel, a History", Martin Gilbert records on page 60: "On August 25 a large Arab crowd made what the official British report described as a 'most ferocious attack' on the Jewish Quarter. 'This savage attack,' the report continued, 'of which no condemnation can be too severe, was accompanied by wanton destruction and looting.' Within five hours, more than sixty Jews had been killed, including many women and children." The remainder of the the Jewish community in Hebron was expelled by the British.
After the six day war, Israel ended up in possession of the hill country, of what has become known as the "West Bank", including Hebron. Just outside the old city of Hebron a new Jewish community was founded, which was called Kiryat Arba after the other name of Hebron used in the Bible, in the KJV, Kirjath Arba. Later Jews moved into the old city of Hebron and there is a small community there today. The Jewish community of Hebron faces many challenges today, including provocations and terrorism. During the last intifada, or Arab uprising, a sniper targeted and killed a Jewish toddler in her stroller in a playground in Hebron.
Hebron was the place where God made the covenant with Abraham, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Hebron was the place where the spies saw the giants and were fearful to go into the land. They acted by sight and did not live by faith. When they came into the land, Caleb chose to have his inheritance in Hebron, the hardest part of the land to take and drove out the Anakim - the giants. In one of his great acts of faith, Samson took the gates of Gaza to Hebron, recognizing the significance of the place where the Abraham was buried, where the promises were given, literally possessing the gates of his enemies. During Bible times Hebron was a priestly city, a city of refuge and David was king there first over Judah. Hebron has always been a place that required faith to live in. It is quite striking that again today Hebron is a city that requires faith to live in, where there are great obstacles and so the Jews that live there are of a unique character. There is terrorism, it is extremely difficult for Jews to buy any property, they have been expelled from properties they have bought. The world does not want Jews in Hebron. The European Union's Executive Commission has announced it will bar financial assistance to any Israeli organization operating in the West Bank from 2014. This is a prime example of the bullying of the EU against Israel, to force Jews out of cities such as Hebron. As reported on the Jerusalem Post website, this week Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin said that, "Israel and the European Union will drift apart if they cannot compromise on new EU guidelines covering settlements beyond the Green Line that could damage research and trade ties".
As Jews flow to Hebron from all over Israel and the world this weekend, it is a fulfillment of prophecy. It is a celebration of the promises of God to the faithful who await the resurrection when they will inherit the land; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Rebbekah, Leah, Caleb... It is also a controversial event, a focal point of the controversy for the land of Israel, a controversy that becomes more acute as time passes. In 1868, long before the Jews returned to the land of Israel, John Thomas wrote in the booklet, "Anatolia", concerning the time of the end, that: "The time, however, fast approaches; and the nearer it arrives, the more important do all questions become bearing upon Judah's land, and Zion, the city of their king." We look forward to this time, when the little stone of the kingdom of God, will smite the image of the empire of the kingdom of men and smash it - Daniel 2. At that time Hebron will become the possession of the faithful of old, who will be royalty in the kingdom of God. Hebron will be an important and royal city in the restored nation of Israel. Jeremiah 33:10-11
"Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.
May we have strength to live by faith and not by sight as we wait the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. This has been David Billington with you for the Bible in the News.
Printed: Saturday, October 26, 2013
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