We, the generation of the Holocaust and the rebirth in Israel, were privileged to return to our homeland and renew Jewish sovereignty in our homeland.
By Haim Shine, October 4, 2012
Immediately following the liberation of Hebron in the Six Days War, a historical meeting took place in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the head rabbi of the IDF, and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu met with the Qadi, the Muslim cleric in charge of the Cave, to officially receive the key to the Cave, and thus symbolically transfer control of Hebron and the holy sites in the city back to the Jewish people.
The entourage was accompanied by a platoon of dusty infantry soldiers, exhausted after days of fighting. Soldiers were armed and dressed in livery, strolling the Cave of the Patriarchs noisily, scattering the remains of their rations. The Qadi complained that the soldiers’ conduct violated the sanctity of the place which proves that Jews do not know how to fully appreciate the significance of the site, which in effect denies them any right to it. He added that when Muslims come to pray there, they wash their hands and feet and insist on clean clothing – everyone senses the sanctity of the place with intimidation and fear.
Dayan and Goren fell silent, as they had no answer to these serious allegations. But Eliyahu, despite feeling a bit uneasy himself at the soldiers’ behavior, looked at the Qadi and explained to him that this is actually the best proof of the Jews’ connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs. He said that when a person comes to stay with a friend or neighbor, he bathes, wears nice clothes and behaves politely. But when children come home to visit, their parents don’t care how their children behave – the important thing is that they come to visit. The IDF soldiers, the rabbi said, are not guests at the Cave of the Patriarchs. They feel like they are returning home after many years away. The parents, our forefathers who are buried in Hebron, are delighted about the return of their descendants and they do not care how they behave. By this point, the Qadi of Hebron was speechless; he handed over the keys to the cave forever.
I am reminded of this story from the Six Day War when I see the tens of thousands of Jews who swarm the Cave of the Patriarchs on the Sukkot holiday and the following intermediate days. Jews of all types and from all movements, religious and secular, veteran citizens and new immigrants, all come to visit the forefathers buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Jews who immigrated from Russia after decades cut off from Judaism; Jews from Yemen who fiercely practiced their Jewish tradition for thousands of years; ancient Sephardic (Spanish) families who lived in Hebron before the 1929 massacre in the city; the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who hung pictures of Rachel’s tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs on the walls of their homes when they still lived in exile; everyone meets in Hebron and at the Cave of the Patriarchs due to a deep sense that they are coming home. They feel that they are coming back to the spring from which Jews sprang forth thousands of years ago, having survived genocides and extermination attempts because of the power of their faith.
On Sukkot, we are commanded to be happy, one of the most difficult mitzvot (commandments) to carry out. Simchat Beit Hashoeivah, the celebrations of the intermediate days of Sukkot between the first and ending holidays, gave us the mental strength to survive the exile and return home, to the Land of Israel. We, the generation of the Holocaust and the rebirth in Israel, were privileged to return to our homeland and renew Jewish sovereignty in our homeland. We went back to our real home, the most powerful fortress in human history; this house is located in the heart of every Jew and binds each person to the forefathers resting for eternity in the Cave of the Patriarchs. This house is the nuclear reactor providing splendid spiritual energy to Jews for thousands of years.