Masses to Attend World’s Biggest Shabbat Meal in Hebron

Shabbat Hebron celebrates Parshat Chayei Sarah & the Cave of Machpela.

23.11.16, 13:44
(Photo: Massive tent for over 2,000 people ready for Shabbat Hebron.)
Each year thousands of people visit Hebron for the annual Shabbat Hebron to celebrate the reading of the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah. This section of the Torah describes how the Biblical patriarch Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpela in Hebron as a burial plot for his beloved wife Sarah. Over 3,800 years ago the founder of monotheism insisted on paying full price for the first purchase in the Land of Israel, this despite an offer from the Hittites to give it to him as a gift.

Because of the tie-in with the weekly Torah portion, Hebron is a prime destination for those wishing to be in the city mentioned in the Shabbat reading. In all, twenty thousand guests are expected to stay in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Hebron’s sister city.

Shabbat Hebron became an organized happening almost 25 years ago and has grown exponentially over the years. Every year the Jewish Community of Hebron prepares for this mass of people with logistics such as food, security, and home hospitality. Also, the Hall of Rebecca & Isaac, the largest in the Tomb of Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs), is open for Jewish services, one of the ten days out of the year that the space is accessible.

This year Shabbat Hebron will occur on November 25-26, 2016. It will be the first time since 2005 that the Shabbat of Parsha Chayei Sarah will coincide with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, something that will not occur again until the year 2027. The Hebron Fund will be organizing a special Chayei Sarah mission for English speakers from abroad including tours and other activities.

Last year, due to the wave of deadly terrorist attacks, there was a sharp decrease in attendance. The usually joyful, picnic-like atmosphere was marred by a terrorist sniper who wounded two civilians, including a visiting American college student named Eli Borochov. Despite being shot in the leg, Borochov expressed a desire to return again in the coming year. His father Ronen Borochov told Israeli news media that he promises to return this year along with his children. "Terror won't defeat us,” he stated. “The answer to the terrorists is that I will come to Hebron, not only with just one child but with my whole family."

This year’s festivities will also feature special mass free Shabbat meals. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, Chabad of Hebron is sponsoring three free first-class meals. These will take place under a giant tent which will feature 300 meters of special graphic printing telling the Jewish story of Hebron through the ages. The tent will fit 3,000 guests, making the event the largest Shabbat gathering in the world. Moreover, the Shabbat meals will be lavish in style: wedding plates, tablecloths, and waiters - with food to match. Chabad of Hebron and the Jewish Community of Hebron have been cooperating since the 1800’s. Rabbi Danny and Batsheva Cohen, purveyors of the Hebron Chabad, continue in that tradition, and provide Jewish connectivity to soldiers and visitors, common to Chabad Houses worldwide.  

Also planning to join the celebrations are elected officials and public figures such as Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamiel, Minister of Religious Affairs David Azulai Deputy Defense Minister Eli Dahan, Minister of Environmental Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, MK Moti Yogev, MK Betzalel Smotrich, former MK Orit Struk, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, and noted lawyer and Hebron donor Yoram Sheftel.
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