Reportage: Hebron's Jewish Community
One of the critical obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Along with Jerusalem, Hebron lies at the heart of the issue. Hebron has a Palestinian population of over 160,000, the second largest city in the West Bank. The Maarat HaMachpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs) in the city's historic center is the burial site of four biblical couples: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. It is venerated by all three Abrahamic faiths. The ninety Jewish families that live in the old quarter surrounding the tomb are steeped in the city's long and painful Jewish heritage and see themselves as guardians of the site. They have a profound conviction that a Jewish presence must remain in Hebron despite an overwhelming Palestinian majority and political pressure to cede the tiny enclave. In early November, thousands of Jews come to Hebron for the Haye Sarah Shabbat. During the highly symbolic event worshipers read the story in the Torah where Abraham purchases the cave and field in Hebron to bury his wife Sarah and subsequently himself and his descendants. For the Jewish settler movement, the Haye Sarah Shabbat is akin to a national holiday. Hebron's Jewish community is vehemently insular and generally hostile to outsiders. These images are a rare view of daily life and religious events in the community.