One of the most ancient cities in the land of Israel, Hebron is mentioned in the Bible as the location of the Cave of the Patriarchs (Me’arat Ha’mach’pelah), which Abraham purchased as Sarah’s burial site. Furthermore, at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land, Hebron is specifically singled out: “They gave Hebron to Caleb”(Joshua 1:20).
Because of Me’arat Ha’mach’pelah, Hebron has always been considered a holy city and, for most of its existence, Hebron was a city of Arabs and Middle Eastern Jews (Sephardim, Iranian, Iraqi, etc), who shared a culture and language with their neighbors.
Following World War I, the British assumed control of the territory of Palestine. The Arabs resented the influx of European Jews that followed. In Hebron, the creation of the Yeshiva of Hebron, a branch of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Russia, significantly increased these tensions.
In the summer of 1929, the underlying tensions in the land of Palestine were ignited by the fiery words of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem (chief religious authority for Muslims). Al-Husseini was passionately nationalistic and fiercely anti-Jewish. (He would later become an ally of Adolph Hitler.) On August 22, when 3 Jews and 3 Arabs were killed in a fight in Jerusalem, al-Husseini promoted the spread of rumors that the Jews were calling for a general massacre of the Arabs. Sadly, the opposite occurred.
The Hebron Massacre began on Friday evening (August 23) and lasted through the weekend. When rioters appeared with knives and sticks, many Jews took refuge in the town’s small police station. Others were hidden by Arab neighbors. The rest of the Jews were offered little protection by the British police, and by the end of the weekend 67 Jews were dead and many others wounded. Afterward, the entire Jewish community was forced to leave the city.
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