The Hebron Massacre: Land soaked in blood of rival claimants

FROM THE moment that a refugee from Iraq paid 400 shekels of silver for a plot of land in which to bury his wife in the Judean hills south of Jerusalem 4,000 years ago, the history of that land has been soaked in the blood of rival claimants.

The man from Iraq was Abraham, founder of the Jewish religion, ancestor of the Jewish people, who came from Ur of the Chaldees, in modern-day Iraq. His purchase of a burial plot, narrated in Genesis, was the first recorded acquisition of land in history. There in the Cave of Machpelah he created a family vault for his wife Sarah, himself, and his son Isaac and his wife Rebecca. It is known today as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Nowhere, other than Jerusalem, are the rival claims to the Holy Land more acute. Muslims also regard themselves as the sons of Abraham, or Ibrahim, as the Koran calls him, through his son Ishmael (Ismail). Hence Palestinian Muslims refer to the Jews as awlad ammi - 'cousins'.

After the Arab invasion of Palestine in 638, the new rulers quickly converted the majestic stones of the synagogue built by Herod the Great into a mosque. In their turn the Crusaders built a church on the same spot. After a brief moment of European ascendancy, the site reverted to Muslim control.

The Mamelukes who conquered the area in 1260 refused to allow Jews beyond the seventh step of the eastern wall. It was a status which the Jewish population was forced to accept for centuries, even though Hebron was one of five sites of continuous Jewish occupation through the ages.

Hebron became the site of some of the bloodiest outrages this century. In the 1929 riots which swept Palestine under the British mandate, 67 Jews were killed. Some 31 families returned in 1931, but were evacuated by the British in 1936 after the second Arab revolt.

Among Palestinians, Hebronites (or Khalili, after the name for Abraham) are the butt of jokes for their supposed stupidity. Today Hebron is a hotbed of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in its most virulent form.

Successive Israeli governments were aware of the feelings of the Muslim population and conscious of the potential for disaster. After the town fell to Israeli forces in 1967, they allowed Jews to pray once more in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. But they banned Jewish settlement in the town. The rise in the influence of the militant Zionist settler movement Gush Emunim and the coming to power of a Likud government in the late 1970s enabled the Jewish settlers to establish themselves first on the hills outside Hebron, and then right in the centre of Hebron itself.

Hebron means very little to the overwhelming majority of Israelis, but for a small band of well-armed, highly motivated and militant Jews, the Arab town remains central to their tenet of the right of Jews to settle anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel.

----------------------------------------------------------------- HEBRON: 4,000 years of history ----------------------------------------------------------------- 2000BC: Abraham buys burial plot 20BC: Herod builds synagogue over site AD638: Arab Muslim invasion 1929: Massacre of 67 Jews in Hebron. Jews leave 1931: Some 31 Jewish families return 1936: More anti-Jewish riots. Jews leave 1948: Hebron falls under Jordanian control 1967: Israeli conquest. Jews allowed to pray at Tomb of Patriarchs again. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine