Aharon Alkabetz (alternative spelling Alkebetz) was born in Morocco in 1909. His family later moved to France. In 1928, by himself, he made Aliyah to Israel, living in Jerusalem. Joining the BETAR movement, he assisted in defending the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1929 riots and massacres. Several years later he joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi (ETZEL). He held several positions, including a weapon's instructor. He hid ammunition in his home and also participated in escorting Jews to and from the Kotel, the Western Wall, protecting them from Arabs and British provocations.
In 1930 Aharon married Leah Levy , from a very distinguished family. One of her descendents on her mother's side was Rabbi Chaim Yosef Azulai, known as the Chida, one of the most important Rabbis of the last centuries. The Chida's great great grandfather was Rabbi Avraham Azulai, known as the Chesed l'Avraham, one of the greatest Kabbalists ever in Israel.
Within a few years Leah and Aharon's first daughter, Dina was born, and by the winter of 1937 she was expecting their third child.
On Friday night, the 25th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, that is, the end of October 1937, Aharon was escorting Jews home from Friday night prayers at the Kotel when an Arab terrorist began shooting in his direction, on "Hebron Street" in the Old City of Jerusalem. Aharon was hit and fell. His young brother-in-law ran home to inform the family that Aharon was injured. The family immediately began searching for their wounded loved one. After a while, not finding him, they turned to a British guard at the city mortuary in the "English hospital." He told them that their weren't any Jews there, only Arabs. So they continued to search, going to the hospitals, to no avail.
Finally they returned to the mortuary, where again the British guard claimed that 'only an Arab' was there. They demanded to see him. Inside, they found Aharon, who'd been killed by the terrorist's bullets. He'd been dressed in Arab clothing, so as to allow the Arabs in the city to deny they'd murdered a Jew, but rather to claim that 'another Arab' had been killed by Jews, as an excuse for another riot.
Aharon was buried on the Mount of Olives. Two weeks his later his young widow gave birth to their third child, named Rona in memory of her husband. She never remarried.
Fast forward to 2003. We were celebrating a family simcha - that is, festive event. One of our daughters was engaged. When we met her fiancé's family and began talking, his mother told us that her mother's brother was Rabbi Moshe Levi, the late Rabbi of Bat Yam, here in Israel. My wife, who lived for a number of years in Bat Yam as a child, said that she remembered him, walking to and from synagogue. And then she realized: wait, wasn't Rabbi Levi's niece named Dina? They nodded in the affirmative. My wife was really wowed, because Dina had been her nursery school teacher, decades ago.
That is Dina Levy, Aharon Alkabetz's oldest daughter.
Aharon Alkabetz was murdered on Friday night, the 25th of Cheshvan, Shabbat eve. The next morning, in synagogue, Jews read the weekly Torah portion, that being "Chayei Sarah," that is, "Sarah's life."
THE SULTAN'S SWORD
As written above, Leah Alkabetz, Aharon's widow, was offspring of Rabbi Avraham Azulai, the Chesed l'Avraham.
According to tradition, in the year 1643, the Sultan from Turkey came to Israel. While in Hebron, he visited Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. It is said that while peering down an opening in the floor, his jeweled sword fell though that hole, landing deep below.
The Sultan ordered one of his soldiers to retrieve the sabre. However after being lowered down, the soldier began to scream, and when pulled out, he was dead.
After a number of his soldiers had mysteriously died while below, the Sultan ordered that a Jew from Hebron be brought to recover his sword. The Jews were petrified, and requested a few days to decide who would be the 'chosen one.' They fasted and prayed, and on the third day, the Rabbi of the community was chosen. Wearing white clothing, he was lowered down the hole in the floor. When reaching the botton he looked around and saw an old man behind him and asked him who he was. The old man replied, "Who am I? Who are you??"
The Rabbi identified himself and told how he had been sent to bring the Sultan's sword back. The old man disappeared in a few seconds later he saw three very very old men before him. Realizing their identities, as the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he requested their permission to stay with them. However they replied that the fate of Hebron's Jews was dependant on his recovering the Sultan's sword. But they promised him that he'd be able to return to them the next day.
When the Rabbi was pulled back up with the sabre, the Jews immediately served a festive meal, in honor of the Rabbi and the miracle. The Rabbi spent all night teaching Torah. Just prior to sunrise he dipped in the Mikvah, a pool used for ritual purity. He dressed in his white clothing, and as the sun came up he recited 'Shema Yisrael.' And passed away. That Rabbi was Rabbi Avraham Azulai, the Chesed l'Avraham, Leah Alkabetz's great great great...grandfather.
The date was the Friday, the 24th of Cheshvan, the eve of Shabbat Torah portion Chayei Sarah.
THOUSANDS EXPECTED AT SHABBAT HEBRON
Tomorrow we are expecting, literally, tens of thousands in Hebron, and neighboring Kiryat Arba, for Shabbat Chayei Sarah,at the site where Abraham paid 400 silver shekels, that is in today's currency some $700,000 for a cave and a field, the first land transaction by a Jew in Eretz Yisrael. And as I am wont to tell visiting groups, we still have the original contract, proof of purchase of the Caves of Machpela. Of course that contract is not in any museum. Rather it is, as we will read on Saturdaymorning, the Torah, the Bible, the word of G-d. That is the best witness that ever existed.
Those tens of thousands is the most appropriate way to honor the memories of such righteous people as Abraham and Sarah, Rabbi Avraham Azulai, and Aharon Alkabetz, who gave his life for Jerusalem and the world's holiest place. We are but links in an eternal chain, bonding us together, one people, in our land, in our city.
Those who preceded us actually live on forever. Life after death. Chayei Sarah - Sarah's life. Our presence here is all the proof necessary.
David Wilder is the first English-language spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron and a local resident. He is the author of the United with Hebron book series.
This article also appeared in the Jerusalem Post.