Hebron stands strong during Holidays despite pandemic

Live streams and small, intimate gatherings have replaced the masses of tourists in the City of Abraham.

2.10.20, 16:13
(PHOTO: Bini Landau performed as a live streamed Slichot event in Hebron.)
Hebron residents used online resources to stream prayer services and music performances during the High Holiday season of 5781 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, bringing joy to viewers around the world.
The Slichot prayer gathering led by Israel's two chief rabbi's was seen by over 16,000 people on YouTube alone. Facebook and other social media was utilized to bring the spirit of the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs to those in quarantine.
High Holidays in Hebron are usually a festival affair, attracting tens of thousands of people to the Slichot prayer service, Succot Music Festival, the Women's Gathering and other events. The Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs has historically been a pilgrimage site for people from far and wide. Last year there were over 1 million tourists, the most ever recorded. This year, tourism has ranged from minimal to zero, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first of the Hebrew month of Elul has been a special time to visit Hebron, going back generations. This year a small delegation of revered rabbis made the pilgrimage. These included  the Aleksander Rebbe, the Lelov Rebbe, Elimelech Biderman of the prestigious Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Rabbi Shalom Arush of the Breslov hasidic movement and author of the popular Garden of Emuna series, and other spiritual leaders. By contrast, last year over 10,000 people attended the Hilulat Avot - commemoration of the Patriarchs on Rosh Hodesh Elul which is a typical crowd.
Rosh Hashannah prayers took place inside the ancient Tomb of Machpela, where the founding fathers and mothers of the Jewish people have their final resting place. The Torah readings that tell the story of Abraham and Isaac are key features in the Rosh Hashannah prayers.
Entry was limited in the historic Herodian-era complex to prevent the spread of the virus. Most services were held outside at the Rochelle Berkowitz Plaza.
The Hebron Fund has offered their popular artists calendar for free online. The 2020-2021 calendar has both Hebrew and English dates and features gorgeous artwork by local residents. To download click here.
The Ten Days of repentance are a time of reciting prayers of penitence. The annual Women's gathering and music concert has in the past featured Sarit Hadad and other popular Israeli musicians. This year it was unfortunately cancelled.
The annual Slichot prayers with Israel's chief rabbis was able to be held online and attended by residents only, who were kept socially distant.

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef led the outdoor services. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu gave a introductory lecture. He is the son of the late Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who launched the event decades ago and currently serves as Chief Rabbi of Tzfat.
Rabbi Eliyahu returned to lead a special Succot hallel service which was streamed live.
Other distinguished guests included Rabbi Uri Saied, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, head of the Hebron City Council, Eliyahu Libman, head of the Kiryat Arba City Council, Yosef Dayan, head of the regional religious council, and others. The evnt included a musical performance by native Hebron Hils area musician Binyamin Landau.
There were also small limited prayer services, one of which featured traditional Sephardic piyyutim, or liturgical poems led by world famous Israeli-Moroccan singer Emil Zrihan, Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Avitan, Rabbi Asher Medina, and head of the regional religious council Rabbi Yosef Dayan.
Sephardic slichot services in Hebron

Usually the Ten Days of Repentance attracts thousands of worshipers to the Tomb of the Patriarchs & Matriarchs in #Hebron every year. This year due to the #COVID19 pandemic, services were drastically limited. We hope these heartfelt melodies will be heard across the internet to all those unable to make it in person this year. Thank you to special guests world famous musician Emil Zrihan, Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Avitan, Rabbi Asher Medina, and head of the regional religious council Rabbi Yosef Dayan. Happy near year! To download your FREE Hebron calendar for 2020- 2021, click here:

Posted by Hebron Jewish Community and Biblical Heritage Site on Monday, September 21, 2020
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, services were held outside in accordance with the Israeli Ministry of Health's directives. This year was reminiscent of a well-known Hebron legend that harkens back to the days when the city struggled with plagues and epidemics.
The 1648 book Emek ha-Melekh related the story of the Tenth Man for the Minyan, in which a mysterious stranger arrived just in time to help complete the prayer quorum for Yom Kippur. When the fast ended, the Jewish community wished to thank him, but the stranger has wandered off and disappeared. In a dream the cantor of the synagogue was told it was none other than the Patriarch Abraham himself who had come to help them. The famous Avraham Avinu synagogue is named for this tale.
This year, after Yom Kippur ended, the community was deeply saddened to learn that Rabbinit Miriam Levinger has passed away. She and her husband Rabbi Moshe Levinger were pioneers in rebuilding the Jewish community. She was a modern day matriarch and inspiration to all. As a testimony to how far the community has come due to her efforts, Mrs. Levinger was mourned by numerous Members of Knesset, and elected officials including the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin.

Succot has typically attracted over 30,000 people to the holy city of Hebron for prayers, music, and family fun activities. Past performers at the annual concert have included Lipa Schmeltzer,  Yaakov Shwekety, Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, the Moshav Band, and an array of popular Israeli singers and Jewish musicians from abroad. One year, a contingent of parliamentarians from Europe and Africa attended as have American media personalities and congress members.  
This year, the Tomb of the Patriarchs was closed and the Succot Music Festival cancelled. The huge succah that used to provide food and drinks for the masses was not built this year. Instead the community opted for a small, modest succah. The energy and passion remains as always, but 2020 has turned out to be a year for introspection and small, intimate gatherings.
In what has now become a modern tradition, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu led a special festive musical hallel service for Succot on the morning of Wednesday October 7th. The service was live streamed on Facebook and YouTube gaining over 15,000 views. The Shacharit morning prayer service was held outdoors at the Rochelle Berkowitz with limited participants. For full article click here

May all those in need of healing, be healed and may all medical personnel and researchers working to eradicate this deadly virus be strengthened in their efforts.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Below -- Government Press Office, Moshe Milner, August 10, 1968, IDF army base (Memshal) in Hebron converted into living quarters. Original GPO caption: "Miriam Levinger and Sara Nachshon (in front) preparing a meal in the communal kitchen of the Jewish Settlers of Hebron."

Festive Succot prayers 2020 with Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Credit: Elisha Grossberg, courtesy Association of Israeli Community Rabbis | 55 Images
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