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Buying a cave in Hebron: The other side of the story

By David Wilder
4/23/2012, 6:04 PM

 

In memory of Beit HaShalom, Beit HaMachpela, Beit Shapira, and
(hopefully not) Beit Zachariya.

He heard footsteps approaching the tent. He started calling to his wife,

to request she prepare a meal for the guests. But then stopped short.

His beloved Sarah was gone. Only last week he’d buried her.

 
He opened the door and was startled to see about a dozen police, in
uniform, crowding around the entrance. But then, looking at them closely,
he breathed a sigh of relief. They were all adorned with ‘stars of david’ on
their cuffs. Landsmen. His own.
 
Stepping outside he said, “Yes, my good friends. How can I be of assistance?
Perhaps I can honor you with a good meal and some drink? Please come
in and recite a blessing.”
 
The highest ranking officer cleared his throat and growled, “Are you
Abraham the Hebrew?” Please show me your identification papers.”
Abraham, slightly flustered, turned to return inside. Suddenly he
felt his arms in the grips of others. Two of the police were holding
him tightly, escorting him back into his home. When he attempted
to free himself, they squeezed harder.
 
“You asked for my identification card. Please let me get it for you.”
One of the police released his hold, but stood close by.
 
Abraham opened a drawer, pushed aside some papers, found the
necessary documents and handed them to the officer.
 
“It is written here that you are married. Where is your wife? Bring
her here at once.”

 

Abraham gulped, and blinking back tears, answered, “Sarah is gone.
She died suddenly while I was away with Yitzhak. We buried her
last week, here in Hebron.”

 

“How can I help you gentlemen? Why are you here?”

 

“Abraham the Hebrew, you are under arrest. I have orders to take
you to the local police station for immediate questioning. You are
suspected of a heinous crime. Please do not cause us any trouble
and come with us at once.”
 
The officer nodded his head at one of the other police, who promptly
grabbed Abraham’s arms, pushed them behind his back and
handcuffed them. Pushed along, none to gently from behind,
Abraham had no choice but to follow them.
 
At the station Abraham was pushed into a chair, where he sat,
waiting, for quite some time. Suddenly a group of people stomped
in. Another, higher ranking officer, moved aside, and pointing at
Abraham, asked the man behind him, “Is this him? Is this the one?”
 
The other man, a well-dressed villager, seemed to jump up and
down and exclaimed, ‘yes it’s him. He’s the one. For sure. I could
identify him anywhere!”

 

“Abraham the Hebrew,” declared the officer, “you are hereby
accused of stealing the Machpela cave and the surrounding field,
owned by Efron the Hittite, who has just positively identified you
as the thief. Do you have anything to say on your behalf?”

 

Seemingly shocked, Abraham was, at first, speechless. Then he
closed his eyes, and could be seen quietly moving his lips. His
eyes opened, he stared directly into the eyes of the officer, and
responded, “I did not, I repeat, I did not steal, the Machpela
cave and field. I purchased them legally from Efrone the Hittite.
There were many witnesses.”
 
“So you deny the charges of theft?”
 
“Yes I do. I paid a tremendous sum for the cave and field, four
hundred silver shekels. There are witnesses to that too.”
 
Turning to the villager, the officer asked, “and what do you say,
Efrone the Hittite?”
 
“Yes, well I did meet with this man, but we did not reach any
agreement.”
 
“And you did not receive any money from him?
 
“Yes, of course I received silver shekels from him. He has been
using the cave as a place of pagan worship for years. He is a
strange man, saying that he prays to only one G-d. A strange
man indeed. He rented the cave from me for many years,
using it daily. But I would never sell it to him.”
 
“Abraham, do you have a contract?”
 
“Ah, ah yes, but it cannot be revealed yet, not for another
few hundred years. But I can give you a hint.”
 
“Yes, yes, go on.”
 
My family will leave here for hundreds of years. We will
sojourn south to Egypt. Returning here, my offspring will
receive the word of the living G-d, the Torah, the Bible, a
nd there will be the eyewitness account of the purchase.
What proof could be better than that?”
 
“Efrone?”

“That is clearly not good enough. The word of G-d is not
sufficient. First of all, it is forbidden to sell caves to Hebrews.
Second, the buyer must seek a license from the local ruler.
Otherwise the purchase is invalid. You are law officers.
You know this law. Don’t you?”

 

“Ah yes, ah, Abraham, did you receive the necessary
permits to make the purchase? Where is your license?”

 

“I did receive permission from, ah, well, you’ll never believe
this, but I really did, receive a permit from…”
 
“Yes, yes?”
 
“From Adam.”
 
“From who!?!”
 
“From Adam, and his wife Eve.” They okayed the purchase
of the cave.”
 
“Perhaps you can explain yourself.”
 
“Well, many years ago I discovered them, also interred in the
Machpela cave, and struck up a conversation with them. They
liked me, and said I could use the cave too, for Sarah, and
myself, when the time came.”
 
Efrone again jumped, exclaiming, “they have criminal records.
That Adam and Eve. I’ve heard they also disobey orders. They
are not to be believed. Neither is this man. He has no permit to
use my cave! Give it back, give it back!”
 
“Abraham, we hereby judge you guilty of theft of the Machpela
cave and field. You must return it to Efrone.”
 
“But Sarah, she’s buried there. So are Adam and Eve.
What about them?”
 
The officer took out a piece of paper, scribbled on it, and
gave to another policeman.
 
“Take this to the cave. This is an expulsion order.
Get them all out. If need be, use force. Get the three of
them out of the cave before nightfall.”
 
An hour later, hundreds of uniformed police surrounded the
cave. Using a megaphone, the officer in charge yelled inside: “
Everybody out. Yes, every body! Adam, Eve, Sarah, you must
find another final resting place. This does not belong to you.
You are occupiers. Out, now!
 
Moments later, the three of them straggled out.
Squinting into the setting sun light,
Sarah asked, “where to now?”
 
Adam looking at Eve and then at Abraham, shrugged his shoulders.
“If I’d known it was going to be like this, I’d never have agreed
to leave the garden.”
 
“Come on guys, let’s go. We’re not wanted here any more.”
 
With that, they wondered away, never to be seen again.
 
Good thing there weren’t Israeli security forces and an Israeli
government back in the days of Abraham, or the above might
very well have occurred.
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