Some 60,000 people came to the city of Hevron Monday and Tuesday, to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles).
Of those, a record 40,000 flocked to the city on Monday alone, to attend a rally featuring musical performances and speeches by public figures.
Musical performances combined singers from a variety of worlds - East and West, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, Mizrahi and Hasidic. Headliners included Yitzhak Meir, Haim Yisrael, Hezki Sofer, Yishai Rivot, and Mordechai Ben David.
Vendors and small booths for children's and tourists' activities were also replete with visitors over the two-day period. Two new tourist sites were opened as well: a new lookout point to Tel Hevron; and tours of an ancient wall revealed recently in archaeological excavations. Additional tours - special for the holiday - provided Jews a chance to see more of Hevron, with armed guards leading a tour through the streets of the holy city closed off to Jews for the majority of the year.
'United we stand'
Public unity was palpable at the event, as representatives of widely varying political parties - including both Shas and Jewish Home - were present to show their support for the city and its small, but strong, Jewish community.
MK Eli Yishai (Shas) spoke of Jewish unity in Hevron, which is "beyond political divisions," and noted that the four species taken on Sukkot - which symbolize the four types of Jews, according to tradition - can only be united once they are grouped together, with all their advantages and drawbacks.
The Jewish people, Yishai added, is the same: despite its many differences, it can only succeed when united.
Deputy Minister of Education, MK Avi Wortzman (Jewish Home), also took to the stage to address another issue facing a Jewish historical site: the decision to close the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, to Jewish worshippers after an escalation in Muslim rioting.
Hevron, which hosts the Cave of the Patriarchs, is mostly Palestinian Arab - and has restrictions on when Jews are permitted to visit the gravesites of its Biblical forbears.
Wortzman, drawing on this, lashed out against the decision to allow terrorists and rioters to dictate to the Jewish people when they can attend their own places of worship, and demanded that police reopen the site immediately to Jews.
The family of fallen soldier Gavriel (Gal) Kobi (hy"d) also attended the rally, participating in the guided tour of Hevron and later sitting in the communal sukkah there. Gal's mother, Smadar, delivered a speech there, thanking God for the twenty years she had with her son and commemorating one year since his death.
The director of Hevron, Uri Karzen, concluded the event with pride.
"The event today and tomorrow summarizes a holy month for the City of the Patriarchs," he reflected. "Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Selichot, and the rally today - thank God, we got to work to bring thousands of people here, and with great success."
"People talk about the special feeling here - of good, of grandeur, unity, excitement, joy and beauty here," he continued. "Thank G-d, today we were able to overcome the rain and continue to rally as usual."
"Hevron is a city that never sleeps, and we invite all those who have not reached here yet: it is not too late," he added. "Very soon many will visit here for the Shabbat of 'Chayei Sarah' [portion of the Torah read, in a few weeks' time, that discusses the life and death of the Biblical Sarah - ed.] and there are other opportunities, every day."