Sarah and Avraham
“Are you looking for us? Here is my baby, in my arms.” (a modern Hebron drama)
Sarah and Avraham
Baruch Nachshon, a famous Hasidic artist and his wife Sarah, a modern day heroine of the Jewish People, were among the first Jews to return to Hebron. In 1975, following the establishment of Kiryat Arba on a hilltop above the old city of Hebron, the Nachshon’s celebrated the birth of a son. They decided to perform the circumcision inside the cave of the Machpelah in Hebron — burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah and, according to tradition, Adam and Eve. The baby was named Avraham-Yedidya.
Three months later, Sarah found Avraham-Yedidya dead in his crib. The young mother was beside herself. Why should her new son, brought into the covenant of Abraham in Hebron in the most ancient city of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, be taken from her after only three months? Everything in this world has a purpose. What was the purpose of her three-month old son?
Sarah decided that Avraham Yedidya would be buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. The cemetery had been last used to inter the 67 Jews slaughtered in the 1929 riots in Hebron. It is minutes from the traditional graves of Ruth and Jesse and overlooks the Cave of the Machpelah. Perhaps, Sarah thought, this was the purpose of the baby, to take part in a sad but vital part of renewing Jewish Hebron. After almost fifty years of Arab opposition, the Jewish cemetery of Hebron would again be utilized as a Jew’s last resting place.
The funeral procession left Kiryat Arba in the late afternoon for the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. Suddenly the mourners encountered soldiers and roadblocks! The cars come to a halt. Soldiers began scouring the site, opening car doors, searching for something. “No, you may not proceed to the cemetery,” the soldiers ordered the mourners; “the cemetery is off-limits.”
One of the car-doors opened. A woman stepped out with a bundle in her arms.
She addressed the soldiers, “Are you looking for me – are you looking for my baby? My name is Sarah Nachshon. Here is my baby, in my arms. If you won’t let us drive to the cemetery we will walk!”
Men with shovels and flashlights and many women walk through ancient Hebron as night falls. They pass the Cave of the Machpelah. They pass the 450 year-old Abraham Avinu synagogue, left in ruins, destroyed by the Jordanian conquerors in 1948. They walk through the Arab streets. Blockades, set up to stop the crowd, are pushed aside. Senior officers give orders over their walkie-talkies: “Stop them – don’t let them proceed” – but the soldiers, overcome by the scene, radio back: “We can’t stop them. If you want to stop them, come down here and do it yourselves”.
The procession continues, past Beit Romano, past Beit Shneerson, home of Menucha Rachel Shneerson-Slonim, granddaughter of the “Ba’al HaTanya,” up the steep hill to the ancient cemetery.
Moonlight illuminates the field. Sarah Nachshon releases the body of her tiny son, Avraham Yedidya, and it is lowered into the freshly dug grave. The plot is only meters from the mass grave of 1929.
Mustering her voice, Sarah utters: “Four thousand years ago our Patriarch Abraham purchased Hebron for the Jewish People by burying his wife Sarah here. Tonight Sarah is repurchasing Hebron for the Jewish People by burying her son Avraham here.”
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from www.hebron.co.il]
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.