Cave of Machpela
Cave of MachpelaJewish Community of Hevron

Rosh Hodesh Elul, the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, coincides with an important Muslim event – the “Night of El-Khader,” the culminating night of the Ramadan fast before its ending with the Id al-Fitr feast. With Muslims claiming “holiness rights” in Hevron, Jews in the city are concerned that Muslims could riot in an attempt to prevent Jews from visiting the Machpelah Cave, as many do at the beginning of a Hebrew month.

In general, the Machpelah Cave is reserved for Jews on holidays such as Passover, Sukkot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot, along with the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. The date marks the beginning of the saying of selichot, the pre-Yom Kippur penitential prayers, by Sephardic Jews. However, the Cave is usually reserved for Muslims alone on the El-Khader date.

The Civil Administration informed the Waqf that it intended to keep the Cave open for Jews only on that day, which takes place in about three weeks. Hevron Arabs reacted angrily, with Arabs tearing down the mezuzot off the entrances to the Cave last week, when Jews were not permitted into the site, as the Civil Administration reserves it for Muslims on Fridays during Ramadan. Jewish residents of the city earlier this week replaced the mezuzot.

Jews in Hevron reported that Muslims have been spreading the word that they need to be prepared to attack Jews on the date, if the Civil Administration doesn't back down from its plan. “Jews who visit the cave are often harassed, and not a week goes by without an attempted terror attack by an Arab who comes to the Cave looking to stab Jews,” said one Hevron resident. “We call on all Jews to visit the Cave on Rosh Hodesh Elul, in order to show that we Jews, too, have rights to the Cave.”