Muslims converged on the Cave of Patriarchs in Hevron Friday for Ramadan prayers, urinated next to Torah scrolls and left behind Hamas flags.
The Cave of the Patriarchs is the tomb of the biblical founders of the Jewish faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives, Sarah, Rivka, and Leah.
The desecration occurred on one of the 10 days during the year that the holy site is open only to Muslims and is closed to Jews. The same arrangement also is accorded to Jews on 10 holy Jewish days.
Uri Karzen, a Hevron resident, reported that a Kohen, who recites the priestly blessings during the Sabbath morning service, told him he smelled urine next to the Holy Ark containing Torah scrolls. Karzen and other worshippers moved the table, where the Torah scrolls are placed during the reciting of the portion of the week, in order to avoid the foul smell.
The Hamas flags were discovered in the windows that mark the burial sites of Abraham and Isaac and the matriarchs, Sarah, Rivka and Leah.
The Hamas flags were discovered in the windows that mark the burial sites of Abraham and Isaac and the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
Hevron resident Asher Horowitz
Ever since Muslims destroyed Torah scrolls in the Cave of the Patriarchs in the 1980s, Jews always remove holy books and lock the Holy Ark when they are prohibited from entering.
Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish community in Hevron, said there is always some sort of damage discovered upon their return every time Jews are prohibited from entering the holy site.
"It is not all the Muslims," he said. "But there always are a few who in the past have ripped mezuzot off the entrances to the rooms of worship or simply leave behind vandalism. Complaints have been filed with the police in the past, but no one ever has been arrested."
He added that two policemen are always on guard when Jews pray, especially when Arabs are prohibited from entering, but there are no policemen present when Jews are excluded.
Surveillance cameras are mounted, but Karzen said the place where urine was smelled may have been out of range of the cameras. The cameras should have caught on film the placement of Hamas flags, according to Horowitz.
Hevron police said they know nothing about the incidents and that an official complaint may not have been filed yet out of respect for the Sabbath.