HEBRON (Heb. חֶבְרוֹן; Ar. al-Khalīl ), city in Ereẓ Israel, 19 mi. (32 km.) S. of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills, 3,050 ft. (930 m.) above sea level. The name Hebron is explained as deriving from the root ḥbr (friend), the name *Ḫabiru, or the Arabic word ḥaber ("granary"). In the Bible, Hebron is also referred to as Kiriath-Arba: "Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-Arba; this Arba was the greatest among the Anakim…" (Josh. 14:15; see Anak, *Anakim; Ahiman, Sheshai, *Talmai). B. Mazar maintains that the name Kiriath-Arba implies that the city was a member of four (arba) neighboring confederated settlements in which the families of Aner, Eshkol, and *Mamre resided around the citadel of Hebron.
Canaanite Hebron was located to the south of modern Hebron, on the strategic hill known as Jebel al-Rumayda, which was also the site of the later Israelite city. Numbers 13:22 states that Hebron was founded seven years before *Zoan, the capital of the Hyksos which was founded in about 1720 b.c.e. (cf. Jos., Wars, 4:530). Artifacts from this period – the middle Bronze Age – were found in a tomb in Wādī al-Tutāḥ; these included pottery, alabaster objects, and personal articles. At this time the name Hebron is connected with the Patriarchs, especially the purchase of the Cave of *Machpelah by Abraham from *Ephron the Hittite. Hebron, however, remained a Canaanite city; it was one of the important localities visited by the 12 spies (Num. 13:22). Hoham, the king of Hebron (Josh. 10:3), participated in the Battle of Aijalon against Joshua and was defeated there together with the other kings of Canaan. His city was conquered by Caleb son of Jephunneh (Josh. 15:13; Judg. 1:20).
After the death of Saul, David chose Hebron as his royal city and was anointed there as king over Judah (ii Sam. 2:1–4). In addition, Abner was buried there (3:32) – his traditional tomb is still standing. The assassins of *Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, brought Ish-Bosheth's head to David in Hebron, and he ordered that they be hanged next to the pool in the town (4:12). Eventually David was anointed king over all Israel in Hebron (5:1–3). The city was also one of the *levitical cities and a *city of refuge (Josh. 21:13; i Chron. 6:42); it was an important administrative center and this was the reason why Rehoboam fortified it (ii Chron. 11:10). In the division of Judah into districts during the Monarchy (cf. Josh. 15:54) Hebron was a city of the mountain district.
After the destruction of the First Temple the Jewish inhabitants of Hebron were exiled and their place was taken by Edomites, whose border extended to Beth-Zur. According to Nehemiah 11:25, however, there were still some Jewish families living in the town; nevertheless, the Jews of Hebron did not participate in the construction of the walls of Jerusalem.
In i Maccabees 5:65 it is stated that Edomite Hebron was attacked by Judah Maccabee and its towers set on fire; the incorporation of the town into Judah, however, only took place after the conquest of Idumea by John Hyrcanus at the end of the second century b.c.e. With the conversion of the Idu-means, Hebron again became a Jewish city. King Herod built the wall which still surrounds the Cave of Machpelah. During the first war against the Romans, Hebron was conquered by Simeon Bar Giora, the leader of the Zealots (Jos., Wars, 4:529), and the city was plundered; it was later burned down by the Roman commander Cerealius (Jos., Wars, 4:554), but the Jews continued to live there. It appears that the population did not suffer during the Bar Kochba revolt. There are remains in the city of a synagogue from the Byzantine period. It was during this period that a church was erected over the Cave of Machpelah: the "very large village" of Hebron then formed part (together with the Botna fortress to the north) of the fortified southern border of the country.
It appears that Hebron fell to the Arabs without offering resistance. The Arabs, who honored the memory of Abraham, named the city Khalīl al-Raḥmān ("the beloved [i.e., Abraham] of [God] the Merciful"), or simply al-Khalīl; however, the name Ḥabrā or Ḥabrān is also found in Arabic sources. The first period of Arab conquest (638–1100) was a relief for the Jews of Hebron, as for the other Jews of Palestine, after the cruel Byzantine rule. There is, however, not much evidence about this period, but as more evidence is uncovered it becomes increasingly more probable that there was a permanent settlement in Hebron at that time. The testimony of historians from an earlier period and documents discovered in the course of time in the *Genizah give a fairly clear picture of the continuity of the Jewish settlement in Hebron. The first evidence is provided by the story which appears in several versions in both Muslim and Christian sources, which tells of the permission *Omar gave to the Jews to build a synagogue near the cave of Machpelah, as well as a cemetery. The popularity of this story indicates that it has a nucleus of historical truth at least. The Arabs converted the Byzantine church over the cave into a mosque. Under their rule the town grew, and the Arabs traded with the bedouin in the Negev and the people to the east of the Dead Sea. According to the tenth-century Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasī they also conducted a far-reaching trade in fresh fruit.
There is no real evidence about the nature and situation of the Jewish settlement in Hebron in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. However, there is evidence of the existence of a *Karaite community there at the beginning of the 11th century (1001), and tangible evidence from later in that century about continuing Jewish settlement. From inscriptions and fragments of documents from the Genizah it is possible to formulate a genealogical reconstruction for four to six generations of two Hebron families, from which it can be seen that the Jewish population was concentrated around the cave of Machpelah and that the synagogue was built near the cave. One of these two families held the inherited title he-ḥaver lekivrei avot, or anshei kivrei avot, and was in charge of maintaining the holy place. This even included the burying of the dead brought by Jews from near and far for burial close to the cave of Machpelah.
The Crusader rule (1100–1260) brought a temporary end to the Jewish settlement in Hebron. In 1100 the Crusaders captured the city, turned the mosque and the adjoining synagogue into a church and monastery, and expelled the Jews. There was probably no Jewish settlement in Hebron after that time – at any rate, there is no mention of the existence of Jews in Hebron. *Maimonides, who visited Hebron (1166), as well as *Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1171), *Pethahiah of Regensburg (1176), and Jacob b. Nethanel (second half of 12th century) make no mention of a Jewish settlement or of the existence of Jews in Hebron. It is possible that Jews began to settle again in Hebron toward the end of the period of Crusader rule, and by the beginning of the 13th century (1210) mention is made of a Jewish dyer "and his group" in Hebron (cf. A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 7–83).
The *Mamluks (1260–1517), who expelled the Crusaders finally from Palestine, made Hebron their district capital (c. 1260), at which time the Jewish settlement apparently began to be perceptibly renewed. *Naḥmanides, who immigrated to Palestine in 1267, wrote to his son that he could "go to Hebron to dig a grave for himself there" (Yaari, op. cit., 84). Such an action would have been unthinkable had there not been a Jewish settlement in Hebron.
It appears that the tolerant Muslim attitude toward the Jews which had existed in pre-Crusader times did not continue with the return of the Muslims to Palestine. In 1266 it was decreed that the Jews were not to enter the Cave of Machpelah, and this decree was strictly enforced until the 20th century. A Christian traveler who visited Hebron in the first half of the 14th century reported that "Christian and Jewish people are regarded by them [by the Muslims] as dogs, and they do not allow them to enter such a holy place" (cf. M. Ish-Shalom, Masei Noẓerim le-Ereẓ Yisrael (1965), 230). The prohibition is mentioned by both Meshullam of Volterra (1481) and Obadiah of Bertinoro (1488), who visited Hebron. They both recount that the Muslims "built a wall at the entrance of the cave, in which they made a small window through which the Jews pray." The number of the Jews was also small at that time – 20 households according to Meshullam and Obadiah of Bertinoro (A. Yaari, Masot Ereẓ Yisrael, (1946) 68–69). Nevertheless, although the Jewish settlement in Hebron was small, it was considered as very important by the Jews. This is seen in evidence found in both Christian and Jewish sources. At the end of the 15th century Christian pilgrims report about a Jewish pilgrimage to Hebron: "The Jews recognize them [the graves of the Patriarchs] and hold them in great esteem… and make pilgrimage there [to Hebron] from Jerusalem and even from other countries …" (the traveler Martin Kabatnik (1492), in M. Ish-Shalom, op. cit., 242). Obadiah of Bertinoro wrote in one of his letters that "there is a tradition among all the people of the land that burial in Hebron is better than in Jerusalem" (Yaari, ibid.).
The first evidence about spiritual and economic activity by the Jews of Hebron during the Mamluk period appears in the 14th century, but this is fragmentary, is derived from a single source, and is doubtful. R. Isaac Ḥilo from Larissa (Greece) reported in 1333 that the Jews were engaged in a prosperous trade in cotton, which they themselves wove and spun, and that they were also engaged in all types of glasswork. Some scholars maintain that the Venetian Jews who emigrated to Palestine after the Crusades introduced the art of glasswork to Hebron, but this is not certain (O. Avisar (ed.), Sefer Ḥevron, (1970), 89). R. Isaac Ḥilo of Larissa also reported about the spiritual activity of the Jews of Hebron, mentioning "an ancient synagogue [in Hebron] in which they prayed day and night." Some scholars doubt, however, whether this description stems from contemporary testimony or from hearsay.
A definite turn for the better in the situation of the Jews of Hebron occurred during the Ottoman period (1517–1917), which began in Palestine in 1517. However, the Jews of Hebron did suffer misfortune and in this very year a great calamity befell the Jewish population of the town. In a parchment document, written at approximately the time of the event (1518), a man named Japheth b. Manasseh from Corfu tells about the attack by "Murad Bey, the deputy of the king and ruler in Jerusalem," on the Jews of Hebron. The results were very grave. Many were killed, their property was plundered, and the remainder fled for their lives to "the land of *Beirut." This same document also attests the stable situation of the Hebron community at that time. The very fact that the sultan's deputy took the trouble to have his armies plunder and loot Hebron in the hope of gaining wealth proves that the Jews of Hebron had considerable property. Furthermore, from the words in the same document "and they killed many people," it may be deduced that many Jews were there. The growth of the Jewish population of Hebron at the beginning of the 16th century is explained by the fact that some of those Jews who were expelled from Spain went to Hebron, probably contributing by their strength and wealth to the spiritual and material enrichment of the settlement.
In the course of the 16th century the influence of the Spanish megorashim (expellees) began to make its mark, especially in the realm of spiritual leadership. This stems from the emergence of two phenomena of note in the second half of the 16th century: the rising power of the Hebron settlement, on the one hand, and the decline of *Safed as a spiritual and economic center, on the other. The consolidation of the Hebron settlement took place in 1540 when Malkiel *Ashkenazi settled in the town. This multifaceted personality, who combined spiritual and practical greatness, organized communal life in Hebron both practically and spiritually. Ashkenazi's first act was to buy the courtyard in which the Jews of Hebron lived. This courtyard, which was surrounded by the stone walls of tall buildings, provided the Jewish community of Hebron with a degree of security. Ashkenazi built some additional buildings in the same location as the well-known synagogue, which was named for *Abraham the Patriarch. He also served as Hebron's first rabbi, and his legal decisions and customs were regarded by the Hebron community as irrevocable halakhot not only in his time but in subsequent generations as well. Toward the end of the 16th and at the beginning of the 17th centuries some of the most important kabbalists of Safed moved to Hebron. The most famous among these was Elijah de *Vidas, author of the well-known moralistic work Reshit Ḥokhmah and a student of Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria, as well as Isaac Arḥa and Menahem b. Moses ha-Bavli, also disciples of Luria.
The teachings of the *Kabbalah and mysticism made a deep impression on the spiritual life of Hebron, and a spirit of asceticism was widespread. Isaiah Horowitz tells about the custom in Hebron of castigation and flagellation (Ammud ha-Teshuvah, a commentary on the tractate Yoma), which is an eyewitness description of castigations and a process of atonement which includes lashing, wearing sackcloth, being dragged, and the symbolic performance of the four judicial executions. Kabbalah and asceticism were prevalent in Hebron for approximately 300 years, until the settlement of the *Chabad Ḥasidim in the 19th century. Thus, the settlement in Hebron grew and became stabilized, although not from an economic aspect. The great majority of the population was economically dependent on continuous outside assistance, in the form of donations and contributions from abroad. The money came in two ways: donations which were sent directly to Palestine from abroad and contributions which were collected by emissaries who went abroad specifically for this purpose. Until the middle of the 17th century Hebron did not have its own emissaries; since the community was small and poor, it could not afford the large investment required for sending such an emissary abroad. Hebron was thus dependent on chance contributions from the Diaspora and on the general *ḥalukkah among the four holy cities (*Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias), from which Hebron received the smallest share (three parts out of 24). In the 16th century the charitable organization known as Yaḥaẓ was established. This was a kind of united fund whose name was a combination of the first letters of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed. It seems, however, that all these attempts did not greatly alleviate Hebron's difficult economic situation. This can be seen in "Kol Kore" (1616), which proclaimed to the Diaspora the difficult situation of Hebron's Jews. A central factor in their troubles was the huge debt owed by the community to the ruling authorities as a result of various decrees. Characteristic of the situation is the legend which tells about a tyrannical governor who forced the community to pay him thousands of grushim (coins whose value was equivalent to the German thaler) by threatening to burn half of the town and sell the other half into slavery (A.M. Luncz, in O. Avisar (ed.), Sefer Ḥevron, 306).
Nevertheless, in spite of the heavy tribulations, which included a plague, locusts, and harsh decrees by the authorities during the 17th century, the Jews of Hebron did not surrender their desire for spiritual survival. In the middle of the 17th century (1659) the famous philanthropist from Amsterdam, R. Abraham Pereira, established the yeshivah Ḥesed le-Avraham in Hebron. Distinguished rabbis and ḥakhamim lived in Hebron at that time. The yeshivah Ḥesed le-Avraham was a primary factor in the creation of this spiritual prominence of Hebron.
A difficult crisis befell the spiritual leadership of the town in the second half of the 17th century, after the visit of *Shabbetai Ẓevi in 1663 on his way to *Egypt. His visit made a great impression on the community. His disciples related that the people of Hebron stayed awake the entire night in order to see his wondrous deeds. He gained the adulation of the most important rabbis of Hebron, some of whom, as well as their descendants, maintained their faith in him even after his conversion. People like the kabbalist Abraham Conki and the emissary Meir ha-Rofe, and especially Nehemiah Ḥayon, devoted themselves to Shabbateanism.
The Shabbatean crisis had a very adverse effect on Hebron and led to both its spiritual and economic decline. There was no improvement during the 18th century, which was marked by disease, decrees of expulsion, a blood libel, and upheavals during the rebellion of Ali Bey and the Russo-Turkish War. Despite these troubles, there was a certain increase in population as a result of the breakdown of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem in 1721 and the immigration of Abraham Gershon of Kutow (Kuty), the brother-in-law of Israel Baal Shem Tov. Abraham Gershon relates that in the single Jewish courtyard there was so little room that they could not even let him bring his family.
In the beginning of the 19th century the Hebron settlement gained some relief. In 1807 and 1811 the Jews bought and leased over 800 dunams of land. Nor was there stagnation in the spiritual life. First and foremost among the ḥakhamim of Hebron in the second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries was Ḥayyim Joseph David *Azulai (called Ḥida). Mention should also be made of R. Mordecai *Rubio, the rabbi of Hebron and rosh yeshivah of Ḥesed le-Avraham, and Raphael Ḥazzan, author of halakhic works. There was a distinct improvement from a financial point of view as well, notwithstanding the robbery and oppression perpetrated by the authorities. Financial help came from several sources. The philanthropist Simon Wertheimer established a large fund which regularly supported the poor of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed. In 1814 Ḥayyim Baruch of Ostrava was appointed as the emissary of Hebron and he succeeded in organizing a network of funds which regularly provided Hebron with considerable amounts (O. Avisar op. cit., 131, 219). Sir Moses Montefiore, who visited Hebron in 1839 and was impressed with its beauty, also made generous contributions to the town. There is even evidence of independent economic progress made by the Jews of Hebron toward the second half of the 19th century. There were Jews who dealt in wine (1838), crafts, and trade (1876 and after).
The most significant development in the history of the Hebron settlement in the 19th century, however, was brought about by Chabad *Ḥasidim. The community was headed by R. Simon Menahem Ḥaikin who moved from Safed in 1840. Internal life was well organized; an agreement was signed between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities (in 1830 and 1842), and a close relationship was maintained between them. In the middle of the 19th century Elijah *Mani founded several public institutions, including the bet ha-midrash Bet Yaakov, and reorganized the Sephardi *kolel in Hebron, freeing it from the administration of the Sephardi kolel of Jerusalem. He also revolutionized communal life by instituting a takkanah which stated that the kolel could subsidize only those actually engaged in studying the Torah. This step encouraged many of the inhabitants to begin to work, thus leading to a greater productivity in Hebron's economic life. There was even a hospital in Hebron by 1895, and the Jewish population reached 1,500 by the late 19th century.
An important contribution to Hebron's spiritual life was made by Ḥayyim Hezekiah *Medini, who founded a yeshivah for young people in Hebron. Four years previously (1900) R. Shalom Baer of Lubavich had established the yeshivah Torat Emet. Together with the religious education system, which reached the height of its development at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a parallel development in secular education, and in 1907 the German Hilfsverein set up the first school that included secular studies in its curriculum. Nevertheless, due to limited economic possibilities the Jewish population fell to 700 by 1910.
World War i and British Rule (1917–1948)
The flourishing period of the Jewish settlement in Hebron came to an end in 1914, with the outbreak of World War i. The young men were conscripted into the Turkish army, the channels of financial assistance were blocked, hunger and plagues created havoc among the populace, and the ghetto of Hebron was almost entirely emptied of its inhabitants after the closing of the kolelim in the town – except for the Sephardi kolel. The Hebron settlement underwent a grave depression. In 1918, however, when Hebron was captured by the British and World War i ended, the Jewish settlement began to recover. The education department of the Zionist organization established schools for boys and girls, as well as a kindergarten. The number of inhabitants was smaller than before the war (430 out of a total population of 16,000 in 1922) but their economic situation was stable. The spiritual situation, on the other hand, was poor – the yeshivot were impoverished and there were only 17 students. In 1925 the *Slobodka Yeshivah from Lithuania was established under the leadership of Rabbi M.M. Epstein, and the Jewish population rose to 700 in 1929 (out of a population of 18,000).
The year 1929 dealt a heavy blow to the Jewish settlement with the killing of many of Hebron's Jews by Arab rioters. The assault was well planned and its aim was well defined: the elimination of the Jewish settlement of Hebron. The rioters did not spare women, children, or the aged; the British remained passive. Sixty-seven were killed, 60 wounded, the community was destroyed, synagogues razed, and Torah scrolls burned. However, those who remained did not surrender and 35 families went to resettle in 1931. The community slowly began to rebuild itself, but everything was again destroyed in the upheavals of 1936. On the night of April 23, 1936, the British authorities evacuated the Jewish inhabitants of Hebron. The Jewish settlement of Hebron thus ended and only one inhabitant remained there until 1947.
In 1948 Hebron was incorporated into the kingdom of Jordan. It was captured by the Israel army in the Six-Day War of June 1967, and Jews again returned to visit Hebron. The old Jewish quarter was found destroyed and the Jewish cemetery almost obliterated. According to the 1967 census, conducted by Israel, Hebron had 38,309 inhabitants, all of whom (excepting 106 Christians) were Muslim. In 1997 the city's population numbered 119,093 inhabitants, 18% of them refugees. Hebron has a smaller percentage of Palestinian Arab refugees than most other places of the West Bank.
On the eve of Passover 1968 a group of religious settlers went to reestablish the Jewish settlement. This new settlement encountered opposition both from the local Arabs and from official Israel sources as their move had not been authorized. The settlers had to fight for official recognition and the right to build a Jewish township in Hebron. In May 1968 the settlers were moved from their temporary quarters to the area occupied by the military government, thus acquiring the protection of the government but not the right to engage freely in economic activity. In 1970 the government decided to permit Jewish settlement in the town of Hebron and to build 250 housing units there. Through the influence of Hebron's mayor Muhammed Ali al-Jaʿbarī, the town remained relatively quiet under the Israel military government, although in 1968 and 1969 attacks repeatedly occurred on Israel soldiers, visitors, and settlers. There were several attacks on Jews who came to pray at the cave of Machpelah, as well as arguments about the right to pray there.
Throughout most of its history Hebron's economy has been characterized by its position on the border of two regions – the farming area and the desert. Therefore, it has served as a marketplace for the exchange of goods between the peasants and the Bedouin shepherds. Even in the 1970s its economy was based principally on retail trade and on handicrafts such as pottery, glass blowing, and leather tanning. Hebron's built-up area, which expanded after 1948, extends mainly northward along the road leading to Bethlehem and Jerusalem and approaches the village of *Halhul.
Developments through 1972 and After
The new Jewish quarter adjacent to Hebron continued to develop. The building of the first 250 dwellings was completed and the quarter named Kiryat Arba, a former biblical name for Hebron. Government approval was given for the building of an additional 100 dwellings and at the end of 1972 Kiryat Arba had a population of almost 1,000, and a large industrial zone was under construction. Kiryat Arba was administered by an officer belonging to the military government, with an advisory committee of the inhabitants, under the provisions of the local (Jordanian) municipal law, though as Israel citizens individual residents were subject to Israel law. However, not all the settlers agreed to move to Kiryat Arba, and in 1981 they moved to the old Jewish quarter, which had been abandoned during the 1929 riots, taking possession of Bet Hadassah and the adjacent buildings.
Most of the residents were religious, and there were some disagreements between them and the government as a result of their demand for autonomous municipal status and the right to approve new candidates for housing in the quarter. Another important issue was the question of services at the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Cave of *Machpelah), which had served for centuries as a Muslim mosque. They objected to the agreement between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Muhammad Ali al-Jaʿbarī, the mayor of Hebron, on the scheduling of prayer services and other arrangements between Jews and Muslims, particularly at the Solemn Festivals.
Many Israelis regarded the re-establishment of a Jewish presence in Hebron, one of the Land of Israel's four holy cities, where Abraham had lived and David ruled, as an act of historic justice. There were complaints that the development of Kiryat Arba was too slow, and that it was being held up for political reasons. However, the new quarter was the target of criticism from left-wing and pacifist circles, who feared that its existence might prove an obstacle to an eventual peace settlement. The Jewish presence in the city created tensions between Arabs and Jews. During the first Intifada, Palestinian fire-bombing and rock-throwing attacks on Jews in and around the city were incessant, The tension reached its peak on Purim, February 25, 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, Kiryat Arba's medical doctor, entered the Cave of Machpelah during Muslim prayers and opened fire with an automatic weapon, killing 29 and wounding 100.
As part of the Oslo Agreements, the majority of the territory of Hebron was handed over to the Palestinian Authority on January 17, 1997, with only some 35 Jewish families and 200 yeshivah students remaining in the city proper. There were some 5,600 Jewish residents in Kiryat Arba. However, the tension between both sides continued and was exacerbated from 2000 with the coming of the second Intifada. At the end of 2002 Kiryat Arba had 6,580 inhabitants and the Jewish settlement in Hebron numbered 500 residents. (See also *Israel, State of: Historical Survey.)
O. Avisar (ed.), Sefer Ḥevron (1970); I.S. Horowitz, Ereẓ-Yisrael u-Shekhenoteha (1923), 248–63; Z. Vilnay, Maẓẓevot ha-Kodesh be-Ereẓ-Yisrael (1963), 71–98; A.M. Luncz (ed.), Yerushalayim, 10 (1914), 304–10; I. Kaplan, Ir ha-Avot (1924); Ha-Va'ad le-Vinyan Ḥevron, Tazkir la-Congress ha-Ẓiyyoni… (1931); Y.E. Levanon, Yalkut Ḥevron (1937); M. Mani, Ḥevron ve-Gibboreha (1963); J. Braslavsky, in: Eretz Israel, 5 (1958), 221–3; idem, in: ymhey, 10 (1943), 66–70; idem, Le-Ḥeker Arẓenu (1954), index; B.Z. Dinaburg, in: Zion (Me'assef), 2 (1927), 54–55; J. Pinkerfeld, in: ymhey, 6 (1939), 61–65; A.Y. Shaḥrai, Ḥevron (1930); Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), 40–42; 2 (1944), 6–9; S. Assaf, Mekorot u-Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael (1946), 43–49; A. Yaari, Masot Ereẓ Yisrael (1945), index; idem, Iggerot Ereẓ Israel, index; idem, Sheluḥei, index; idem, in: Yerushalayim: Meḥkerei Ereẓ Yisrael, 4 (1953), 185–202; idem, in: Mahanayim, no. 72 (1962), 84–96; N.H. Torczyner, in: E.L. Sukenik and I. Press (eds.), Yerushalayim:… Le-Zekher Avraham Moshe Luncz (1928), 109–10; M. Ish-Shalom, Masei Nozerim le-Ereẓ Yisrael (1965), index; Press, Ereẓ, 2 (1948), 244–6; M. Benayahu, in: Sura, 2 (1955–56), 219–23; N. Fried, in: Sinai, 53 (1963), 108–111; Prawer, Ẓalbanim, 2 (1963), index; M.D. Gaon, Yehudei ha-Mizraḥ be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 1 (1928), 177–94; I. Ben Zvi, She'ar Yashuv (1966), index; idem, Ereẓ-Yisrael ve-Yishuvah… (1967), index; idem, in: ymhey, 5 (1937), 119–23; B. Meisler, in: Sefer Dinaburg (1949), 310–25; L.H. Vincent, E.J.H. Mackay and F.M. Abel, Hebron. Le Haram el-Khalîl (1923); Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 345–7; G.L. Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (1890), 309ff.
Ancient Canaanite city of Judea, now part of the West Bank, where Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions situate the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah. The site is known to Jews as the Cave (or Tomb) of the Patriarchs (Mearath ha-Makhpela, in Hebrew) and to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham the Friend (al-Haram al-Ibrahimi al-Khalil, in Arabic) or the Ibrahim Mosque. The Arabic name for the city is al-Khalil; the Hebrew is Hevron; both mean "friend," a reference to Abraham, who in sacred Muslim literature is known as "the Friend of God" or "the Friend of the Merciful" (al-Khalil al-Rahman). For Jews, Hebron—which in the Bible was called Qiryat Arba (City of the Four) before the time of Abraham—is one of the four holy cities of Eretz Yisrael, along with Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias. According to Biblical tradition, on the death of King Saul, toward 1010 b.c.e., David was proclaimed King of Israel in Hebron, which became his first capital. The original structure enclosing the cave was built by King Herod the Great (r. 37–4 b.c.e.). The Byzantine rulers made it into a church, and when the Muslims conquered Hebron in 636 c.e. they rebuilt it as a mosque. In 1100 Crusaders took over the city and expelled the Jews. They destroyed the mosque and the Synagogue of the Caves, building in their place a church dedicated to Saint Abraham. In 1187, after the victory of Saladin over the Crusaders, the mosque was reconstructed. In 1267, a Mamluk sultan, Baybars I, declared that Jews would no longer be allowed to visit the tomb of Abraham. This interdiction stayed in effect until June 1967.
A Jewish community remained in Hebron and in 1516 the area came under the rule of the Ottomans, who welcomed to their empire many of the Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492. In the sixteenth century many Sephardic Jewish families settled in Hebron and the city became a center of Jewish learning. For three centuries, except for the sacking of the city by the Egyptians in 1834, the pace of life in Hebron was slow, and Palestine as a whole was something of a backwater.
Once Zionist settlement began in the 1880s, and especially after World War I, relations between the Jewish and Arab communities became increasingly tense. On 24 August 1929, following the riots over the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Arabs massacred sixty-seven Jews in Hebron, destroying their synagogue and schools. (The city had only one British policeman.) The remaining Jews, many of whom had been protected by their Arab neighbors, fled. Two years later, thirty-five Jewish families returned, but on 23 April 1936, after months of rising tension and the beginning of a Palestinian general strike (called in reaction to the discovery of Zionist arms shipments into the country), British authorities decided to evacuate them. After the departure of the British and the 1948 War, Jordan inherited control of the West Bank, but as a result of the 1967 War, Israel occupied the area.
A messianic interpretation of the conquest of Palestinian territory among ultra-Orthodox Jews encouraged the development of Jewish settlement, and in 1968 the first extremist settlers, under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, moved into the center of Hebron, registering at a hotel and declaring themselves a new Jewish community. The Israeli government removed them to a disused army camp outside the city, which in 1972 they were allowed to convert to a permanent settlement, Qiryat Arba, where in 1974 the Gush Emunim movement was born. These armed extremists demanded the right to live anywhere they chose in "Greater Israel."
In 1979 Gush Emunim started a permanent settlement in the ancient Jewish quarter in the heart of the city and refused to leave. They engaged in a standoff with the government and the next year, after
six yeshiva students returning from the Tomb of the Patriarchs were killed by Palestinians, the settlement was officially recognized. Since that time the presence of these 400 armed settlers, their deliberately provocative behavior, and their desire, of which they make no secret, to expel the Arabs (an estimated population of 137,000 in 2003)—as well as the Israel Defense Force's (IDF) frequent disruption of the city—have led to violent reactions on the part of the Palestinians, followed by severe Israeli reprisals. Toward the end of 1979, a group of settlers from Qiryat Arba and other settlements formed a clandestine militia, which in June 1980 carried out bomb attacks on three West Bank Palestinian mayors. In 1983 this splinter group killed four students of the Islamic College of Hebron. On 25 February 1994, during the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which had started in Madrid in 1991, an American Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, from Qiryat Arba, killed twenty-nine Palestinians worshipping at the Ibrahim Mosque and wounded sixty others before he was beaten to death while reloading his rifle. An official commission found that he had acted alone and condemned his action; his grave has become a shrine for the Jewish settler movement.
In May 1994 the United Nations deployed an unarmed observer unit called the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) to try to calm the situation, but its mandate was allowed to run out that August. On 28 September 1995 Israelis and Palestinians signed the second Oslo Accords, dealing with the extension of Palestinian autonomy to the West Bank and providing for the partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from the city of Hebron. The accord led to a wave of violent protests, organized by Israeli settlers and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, followed on 4 November 1995 by the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were suspended. In May 1996 a new TIPH was constituted and deployed; it was reorganized by treaty in 1997. In June 1996 the new Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared his lack of confidence in the Oslo Accords. A group of ultranationalist rabbis launched an appeal to Israeli soldiers to disobey any order to withdraw from Hebron. On 15 January 1997, after many months of negotiation, an accord on the city of Hebron was finally signed between the Israelis and Palestinians, providing for the withdrawal of the IDF from four-fifths of the city, with the Jewish inhabitants remaining under the authority of Israel. This accord included a "protocol on the redeployment of the Israeli army in Hebron," a memorandum on the commitments of both parties to future negotiations, and a letter of guarantee by the U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. In the course of the preliminary discussions leading to this accord, the Israeli prime minister insisted that the notion of reciprocity be the basis of future commitments. On 18 January the Israeli army began its withdrawal from Hebron, and the next day Yasir Arafat proclaimed the liberation of the city. Two days later, hundreds of Jewish settlers demonstrated against the retreat of the IDF.
Obstructions of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the development of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 resulted in the non-application of the Hebron accords and in many deadly confrontations between the Jewish and Palestinian communities. In March 2002, two TIPH observers were killed by Palestinians, and TIPH discontinued patrols in the Jewish quarter because of confrontations with settlers. In November 2002, twelve Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack by Palestine Islamic Jihad, and in August 2003 a suicide bombing killed twenty-three. In 2004, 400 to 600 Jews lived in more than twenty settlements in Hebron, and about 6,000 lived outside the city in Qiryat Arba. The Palestinian population was approximately 16,500 in 1922, 80,000 in 1990, and 137,000 in the city and surrounding villages in 2003.
SEE ALSO Abraham; Aqsa Intifada, al-; Arab-Israel War (1967); Arafat, Yasir; Eretz Yisrael; Greater Israel; Gush Emunim; Isaac; Jacob (Biblical); Judea and Samaria; Netanyahu, Benjamin; Oslo Accords II; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Rabin, Yitzhak; Saladin; West Bank; Western Wall.
Hebron (in Arabic, al-Khalil; in Hebrew, Hevron ) is an ancient city, holy to both Judaism and Islam, because it is the site of the Machpelah burial cave of the Biblical and Qurʾanic figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their respective wives Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah. Later, in the tenth century b.c.e., David was proclaimed king in Hebron when Saul died, and it became his first capital. Above the Machpelah cave is a mosque complex known as the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi.
Although predominantly a town inhabited by Palestinian Arab Muslims, a small Jewish community lived in Hebron throughout the centuries. During British rule, the Jews left after the Arab-Jewish disturbances of August 1929 when sixty-four Jews were massacred. Hebron was annexed by Jordan in 1950 in the aftermath of the Arab-Israel War of 1948, and it was occupied by Israel during the Arab–Israel War of 1967. As a result, Jews were allowed to pray in the al-Haram, something formerly forbidden to them. A civilian Jewish settlement called Kiryat Arba was established nearby in 1968, and militant nationalist settlers also began moving into the heart of Hebron itself. Formation of the Gush Emunim movement furthered this development. Long a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence, Hebron's worst violence in decades occurred in February 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, a U.S.-born Jewish settler, entered the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi mosque and massacred twenty-nine Palestinian wor-shippers before he himself was killed.
Because of the presence of approximately 400 Jewish settlers in Hebron, it was the only major West Bank town (besides Jerusalem) from which Israeli forces did not withdraw in 1994 as a result of the Oslo Accord. The troops later withdrew from 80 percent of Hebron in January 1997 in accordance with the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, leaving the 120,000 Palestinian residents under Palestinian rule. Yet, Israel retained control of the remaining 20 percent of the city, which included the downtown Palestinian market and the alHaram al-Ibrahimi, to protect the remaining Jewish settlers.
See also arab–israel war (1948); arab–israel war (1967); gush emunim; kiryat arba; oslo accord (1993).
updated by michael r. fischbach