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Cave of Patriarchs to Be Open 24 Hours a Day for High Holidays

IDF commander approved request to let visitors into the Cave for nighttime Selichot prayers between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/25/2010, 5:42 PM / Last Update: 8/25/2010, 5:40 PM

David Wilder

The Cave of Patriarchs (the Biblical Cave of Machpela) in Hevron will be open to the devout all night long during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. The Cave was closed to the public from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM until now, and has not been open 24 hours a day at any time in recent memory.  

The IDF's top commander in the Hevron area, Col. Guy Hazout, approved a request by the Kiryat Arba Religious Council's to allow devout visitors into the Cave for nighttime Selichot prayers, which are recited on the High Holidays.

Selichot are penitential poems and prayers that are recited in the weeks preceding Rosh HaShana and in the ten days that follow it. Elul, the month that precedes Rosh HaShana usually coincides with the Muslim month of Ramadan, which ends with the holiday of Eid el-Fitr. This year, Ramadan ends on September 10, and the Cave will not be open to Jews on that day. It will, however, be open on all of the other Ten Days of Repentance that precede Yom Kippur.

According to Yossi Dayan, Head of the Kiryat Arba Religious Council, “Thousands of visitors come to Hevron during the month of Elul and this is even more meaningful on the Ten Days of Teshuva (Repentance) during which there are visits by organized groups, individuals, families and groups from abroad.”

"In order to give additional possibilities for holding prayers and saying Selichot, we asked that the Cave be open during the nighttime hours and the request was approved. We are appreciate this and there are already plans for main sessions for Selichot recitation on those nights.”

Central Selichot events will include a night in which high school age Yeshiva boys and Ulpena girls from all over the country will gather to listen to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat.

Malachi Levinger, Head of the Kiryat Arba – Hevron Council said that the decision to open the Cave at night is “further evidence of the close and fruitful cooperation between the community of Kiryat Arba – Hevron and IDF commanders. The decision will enable thousands of devout people from all over Israel to connect with their roots during the holidays. We invite the general public to visit the Cave of Machpela and enjoy the spiritual and cultural treasures of Hevron.”