The day I went to Chevron (with the glutteral Ch, not the gas station) happened to be a great day to go. There was a festival going on there, and the Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah (keep reading…) would be open!
The morning started off with Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel. I had never seen more people at the Kotel then this morning. It was an incredible experience to be blessed with the rest of klal yisrael in such a holy makom.
We had to go across the street from Jerusalem’s central bus station, crossing through a cool underground graffiti-ed tunnel, to get to the particular busses leaving to Chevron. We paid for a round-trip ticket and boarded the bus. The avid adventurer and window-seat-girl in me was disappointed by the cloudy scratched yellowed windows on the bus we had to take. I made a remark about not being able to see out of the windows, and a friend noted that we were on a bullet proof bus. It hadn’t even occurred to me. The reality of the journey had gotten, well, more real.
But stepping off the bus on the other side, the loud Jewish music blaring immediately clouded any hesitation I had about entering Chevron. Walking up a small set of stairs, I was swarmed by Jews and absolutely loving it. The Na Nachs greeted us with their jumping airplanes and undying spirit; my unmodest impulsivity wanted to join them so badly. Their ruach was infectious in the best way!
There were so many different vendors, but we tried hard to ignore them and made our way to the Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah, to visit the ultimate Bubbe and Zeide: Avraham and Sara. And Yitzchak, Yaakov, Rivka and Leah. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs of our people! The holiness just oozes! We only get to see decorated above-ground versions of their graves, because they are really buried beneath the building, supposedly. Ma’arat Ha’Machpelah translates to “double cave,” which is the original plot of land Avraham purchased to bury Sara. Islam refers to this place as the Ibrahim mosque, as it is a mosque for the majority of the year. It is only occasionally opened to Jews as well.
The neatest part about the site is this small veiled vent on the floor that leads straight to the caves. They say its as if you are breathing in the air of Gan Eden, the only tangible worldly connection to the heavens. However, it was pretty upsetting to see everyone push and shove to get to the holy spot. It was hard to get to it, and even more difficult to escape the suffocating crowd. I went to the vent and crouched down so my face was directly over it, trying to take in the sweet scent of Gan Eden. Expectation: vague, but high, hoping for a spectacular mix of personal elevation and vanilla fresh cut grass. Reality: a harsh metal taste of the vent itself, while feeling an indescribable Gdly gust grace my face, while trying to ignore the pushy women preventing me from standing up again. The scent was indecipherable, but the connection incomparable. I felt closer to my ancestors and loved ones than ever before.
Here are some thoughts I had while at the kever….When it comes to prayer, prayer is personal. I’m so content though that I pray for our nation as a whole. I realized that when our relatives die, they are another person from Am Yisrael gone and joined the forefathers in the cycle of life. Our forefathers are here. This place is holy for Arabs too because they are their forefathers as well. Why can’t we realize we are from the same people? We have the same mother and father. So what if there was a sibling feud. We are family. We need to learn to get along. To share things equally and fairly. Because what is family if we are constantly shedding blood?
So to everyone filled with hate and resentment for the past: that’s what the past is – it has passed, it’s gone. But remember a key point in all of our past is that we have the same roots. As important as our respective religions are to us, we can still get along harmoniously. We are still falling from the same people, the same mom and dad. They don’t want to see us fighting any longer. Neither does Gd, Allah, Hashem, or whatever you would like to call Him.
When we left the synagogue part of the kever, I lit a memorial candle in memory of mainly my sister, but also our forefathers and the other beautiful souls that have left the world that we know. It was an honor to be able to bring her light to Israel, to visit them, even though she already got to meet them way before she should have.
We found a delectable kosher for Pesach barbecue buffet for lunch. While enjoying some shnitzel and way too many “chiips,” suddenly a uniformed man hurriedly mutters in Hebrew something that I totally miss, but from the actions of others he was requesting we move over to one side of the tent we were eating under. It seemed urgent, and though we were unsure what to do, we pick up our things and move quickly. Apparently, someone had left their backpack unattended, and the situation was neutralized and everything was totally fine. Still, we left immediately.
We venture off on a personal tour of Chevron, courtesy of a potential future resident. As we walked the side roads, the military presence in Chevron was heavily felt. There were soldiers everywhere we looked. A tank casually adorned the side of the road. Numerous soldiers patrolled the road in a confusing throng of threat and protection.
We went to a free museum depicting the past of Chevron. It was not for the weak stomached. Images of bludgeoned limbs hung on the walls, all belonging to Yeshiva students who were injured in a threat in Chevron. I’ll spare you from seeing them until you are able to visit the site as well.
When we left the museum, we walked through a back ally and could really see the occupation. The huge Israeli flag dominates over the Palestinian homes.
Our final stop on the mini tour was a shul with an amazing story that you’ll have to check this post again in order to read.
Before embarking on my trip to Chevron, I assumed all responsibility for my actions and any events and consequences that could possibly occur.