A few years ago, following one of his last visits to Me’arat Hamachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs, as Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu entered his car, the other door opened and two people literally pushed their way into the vehicle, one civilian, the other in uniform.
The civilian, a senior employee at the holy site, said, “Rabbi, I’m sorry to do this, but this man, a border police officer, works here very hard and greatly helps the Jewish people. He has a problem. He and his wife have been married many years andhave yet to be blessed with children.”
Rabbi Eliyahu looked at the man and responded, “He should continue to help the Jewish people and next year he will be witness to salvation.”
A year later his daughter Miriam was born. The border police officer’s name is Shuchralla Morav.
Much has been written about Hebron’s relationship with security forces, be it police or IDF. As much as we say about our good, positive relationships with them, we are unfortunately generally not believed.
The roots of our national essence, in Hebron, begins with Abraham and Sarah. They were known as people of chesed, that is, overwhelming loving-kindness and generosity. Our sages have taught that we must express the attributes of our Creator: as He is kind, so too we must be kind. The primary examples of kindness are Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham’s compassion was not limited to “his own.” Numerous stories are told of his assistance to strangers, many of whom worshiped idols, the very antithesis of his life and ideology. Yet this did not prevent him from offering them food, drink and a place to sleep.
The present Jewish community of Hebron tries to continue walking in the footsteps of our illustrious Forefathers, learning from their deeds, and acting accordingly. Therefore, when Rabbi Shalom Alkobi, then director of the Machpela authority, realized he had an opportunity to seek a blessing from one of our generation’s most righteous people, he did so, without thinking twice.
And the rabbi’s blessing was received and came to pass.
Morav, as he is called, served at Me’arat Hamachpela for 17 years. Living in the north, several hours from Hebron, he wasn’t able to spend enough time with his wife and young daughter. Recently he was transferred to a position much closer to his home, allowing him to enjoy his blessings.
But, after 17 years of service, we couldn’t allow him to leave without a proper parting. So a few days ago, a large group from Hebron, as well as a few of his former commanders, surprised Morav at his home for a farewell party. All facets of Hebron’s community were represented: Rabbi Hillel Horowitz and Noam Arnon, Baruch Marzel, Rabbi Shalom Alkobi, and others.
The celebration began with a number of speeches recognizing Morav’s contribution to dozens of Hebron events, including mass gatherings of tens of thousands of visitors. Everyone present articulated words of gratitude, which was expressed also in several gifts presented to him: an original painting of Me’arat Hamachpela by Hebron artist Shmuel Mushnik, and a certificate of appreciation, signed by all present as well as Hebron’s mayor, Avraham Ben-Yosef, Hebron’s director-general Uri Karzen, and the director of the regional religious council, Yosef Dayan.
How did Morav relate to his years in Hebron? In his words, “It was an honor... the sanctity of the site was above any and all other considerations.”
Shuchralla Morav is not the first and only officer honored by Hebron’s Jewish community. A long list of police , IDF soldiers and officers and commanders are among those who are tangibly appreciated as a result of their tireless efforts to maintain a safe and secure Hebron, allowing hundreds of thousands of people, of all races and religions, to visit Israel’s first Jewish city and holy sites.
Surely, we do not always see eye to eye, but then again, neither do husband and wife always agree. You learn to agree to disagree. However that doesn’t prevent mutual care, respect and love. So too with the courageous men and women whose presence, hard work and shared esteem lead to positive, fruitful relationships which can last for many years.
For example, Colonel Guy Hazut, speaking recently after having concluded two years as commander of the Judea-Hebron brigade, said, “Many people think that people in the Jewish community of Hebron have horns and tails. These are amazing people. There is a tiny, negligible group which give them a bad name.”
Abraham’s legacy is a lesson well learned, and still practiced. That legacy, still alive and well, is the crux of our existence, not only in Hebron, but as a people, in Israel and around the world.
This coming Shabbat, Chayei Sarah, we read of Abraham’s initial transaction, purchase of the Caves of Machpela in Hebron, as a final resting place for Sarah, and later himself, Isaac and Rebeccah, and Jacob and Leah. Together with tens of thousands in Hebron, and multitudes elsewhere, we continue, as best we can, the heritage bequeathed to us, some four thousand years ago.