City southwest of Jerusalem in the southern part of the west bank of the Jordan, occupied by Israel in 1967; population (2005) 160,500 (Palestinian Territories). The population is mainly Arab Muslim, but just outside the city is a large Israeli settlement called Qiryat Arba. The 400 Israeli settlers are protected by 2,000 Israeli soldiers. Industries include leather, stone cutting, and ceramics. Hebron has experienced frequent confrontation between Israelis and Arabs in the Intifada and throughout the Israel–Palestine peace process.
On 25 February 1994, the Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque was the scene of a massacre in which 29 Palestinians were shot dead by an Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, while at morning prayer during Ramadan. Goldstein, an immigrant Jew from New York, was beaten to death by survivors. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed an accord stating that Israeli troops would hand over 80% of Hebron to Palestinian authority by March 1996, although this did not occur until January 1997. The city was divided into three zones, one administered by Palestine, one by Israel, and one jointly.
History Hebron is an ancient city, dating back to the 18th century BC, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. It is especially venerated by the Muslims and Jews because of its associations with the Old Testament patriarch Abraham, whom they believe to be buried here (the Arabic name is an abbreviation of Khalil-al-Rahman, meaning ‘Abraham, the friend of God’).
Hebron was under Muslim rule from 635 until 1923, except for a 160-year period of control by the Crusaders. During the period of the British Mandate over Palestine (1923–48), Hebron was a Muslim Arab city with a small, pious Jewish community, and the city has become renowned for its religious fervour.
In 1929, around 67 Jews here were massacred by the Arabs and the remaining Jews fled. During the Palestine War of 1948, Israel failed to capture Hebron, and it was annexed by Jordan in 1950. In the 1967 war, it was occupied by Israeli forces. Jewish settlers moved back into the city and the Tomb of the Patriarchs was opened to all worshippers for the first time in 700 years. Today, the Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas polls strongly in elections, and the Jewish settlers are equally hard-line.
Features Hebron's present-day features are high stone houses, narrow streets, and vaulted bazaars selling sheepskin coats and blown glass. The most famous monument of the city is the Haram, sacred to Muslims and Jews as enclosing the cavern of Machpelah, which Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite for the burial-place of Sarah. The mosque itself, as distinct from the area, was adapted by the Arabs from a Crusaders' church. The mosque is the traditional site of the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and cenotaphs of Abraham and Sarah occupy two octagonal chapels of Jacob and Leah, north of the area of the Haram; that of Joseph is in a separate enclosure; and those of Isaac and Rebecca inside the church. There are also remains of the Herodian and Roman periods.
Biblical references In Joshua 15:13, there is a reference to the capture of Hebron by Caleb. David made it the headquarters of his movement against Jerusalem, Abner was slain by Joab at the city gates, and David executed the murderers of Ishbosheth here. The city was later seized by the Edomites, but was recovered by Judas Maccabaeus, before finally falling to the Roman emperor Vespasian.
Jewish Community of Hebron
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