History

Women's Suffrage Activist Visits Hebron in Late 1800's

An article from 1895 is enlightening compared to today's Hebron.

1.10.17, 18:02
An article from a Pennsylvania newspaper from the late 1800's is lightening compared to today's Hebron. It quotes from Frances Power Cobbe, an Irish writer, social reformer, anti-vivisection activist, and leading women's suffrage campaigner.

Reading Eagle Sep 8, 1895

Hebron is one of the few Biblical localities concerning which there is no dispute. It is situated about midway between Jerusalem and Beersheba and is one of the oldest cities in the world. At present it numbers about 10,000 inhabitants and is a hotbed of Mohammedan fanaticism. Its mosque stands over the cave of Macpelah which Abraham purchased of Ephron the Hittite as a burial place for himself and his family. Here Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were buried. 

According to Dr. Schaff's description, the cave of Macpelah is surrounded by a wall 194 feet long and 58 feet high, constructed of immense stones, reminding one of the foundation of the temple at Jerusalem. It is generally believed that this wall is of Hebrew origin. Within the enclosure is the mosque which none but Mohammedans are permitted to enter. In 1862 the prince of Wales, accompanied by Dean Stanley, visited Hebron, and by special orders from the sultan they were admitted to the mosque. Here they saw 6 monuments, supposed to be the tombs of the patriarchs and their wives, and were permitted to look through a small hole in the floor into the cave of Macpelah. It was dark there and they could discern nothing. No one -- not even a Mohammedan -- is known ever to have entered the cave: and, indeed, the place is regarded as so sacred that any attempt to penetrate its mysteries would be regarded as blasphemy and be punishable with death.

Frances Power Cobbe says in her recently published volume, in connection with her visit to Palestine: "I am much surprised that the contents of the vault beneath the mosque of Hebronhas not long ago excited the intensest curiosity among both Jews and Christians. We are expressly told that Joseph ordered the physicians to embalm his father, that '40 days were fulfilled for him, for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed,' and that Joseph went up to Canaan with 'all the servants of Pharaoh and the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt' and 'chariots and horsemen, a very company.' They finally buried Jacobs 'in the cave of Machpelah which Abraham bought.'"
 
The writer goes on to say that there is no known reason why the embalmed remains of the patriarchs should not still be in the cave where they were buried: and suggests that the Rothchilds, Hirschs, Montefores and Goldsmiths should put together "a modest little subscription of a million or two" and buy the whole town of Hebron, so as to make researches at the leisure. They might discover relics which "would throw more light on the origin of Judaism than can be done by all the rabbis and bishops of Europe and Asia together."

Miss Cobbe says: "I have talked to Dean Stanley on the subject, who as he tells us in his delightful 'Jewish Church' shared all my curiosity, but when I urged the query: Did he think that the relics of the patriarchs would be found if we could examine the cave? he put up his hands in a deprecatory attitude, and said, "Ah! that is the question, indeed,'"

It is the secrecy by which the cave of Macpelah is veiled that constitutes the Mystery of Hebron. No doubt the day is not far distant when modern research will force its way into the ancient sepulchure and bring to light whatever may be hidden there. We think, however, that probabilities are altogether opposed to the discovery of objects of important historical interests. Though it is true that from time immemorial the place has been regarded as sacred, it must not be forgotten that we know absolutely nothing of its history after the burial of the patriarchs until at least the period of the Christian era. How many times it must have been overrun by hostile tribes, some of which had probably never heard the name Abraham. Hebron, we are told, was destroyed by the Romans, and it is not at all probable that the cave escaped their search for hidden treasures. If anything important had been discovered, it would have been carried away, if not wantonly destroyed. For centuries Hebron remained in ruins, but was rebuilt during the Middle Ages, and from A. D. 1167 to 1187 there was a Christian bishop there.
 
In those days the popular reverence for relics was unbounded, and no doubt one of the first acts of the bishop was to examine the ancient sepulchre for "treasures of the faith." If any relic of the patriarchal age had been discovered, the fact would have been announced throughout Christendom and there is no probability that it would ever have been forgotten. The remains of the patriarchs have no doubt long since returned to dust and ashes, nor do we wish it to be otherwise. The preservation of their sepulchre is indeed a marvel: but it is a greater wonder that their great religions unite in doing honor to their memory and that their sublime faith in the unity of God has remained unchanged through all the intervening ages.