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To commemorate the reading of the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah this coming Sabbath, November 19, which describes Abraham’s purchase of the Maarat HaMachpelah (Cave of Patriarchs), a booklet of greetings from both Israeli and Diaspora leaders will be published by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs of Israel. The government of Israel has designated this ancient, revered cave as a national heritage site.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which includes the Orthodox Union as a member, has been asked by the Ministry to call on each member organization to submit an entry for the booklet.

The following is the Orthodox Union submission:

For millenia, we, the Jewish people, have traced our connection to the Holy Land of Israel to our biblical roots. As faithful Jews who attend synagogue regularly, and who read and absorb each week’s Torah portion, we have recently read of the Almighty’s promise of this land to Abraham, the first Jew.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Chayei Sarah, we read how Abraham purchased and paid in full for a burial place for his wife, Sarah. Ultimately, Abraham himself was buried there along with his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, and their wives, Rebecca and Leah. Thus, that place became known as the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the ancestors of the Jewish people. Its location is in the city of Hebron, where Abraham and Sarah dwelled and where King David first reigned.

Today, the Jewish nation is privileged to be able to visit this holy and inspiring site, a privilege that was denied to us for centuries by those who formerly controlled the sacred site. We are grateful to the Almighty for this privilege, which carries religious as well as historic meaning.

The Government of the State of Israel has now designated the Cave of the Patriarchs as a national heritage site.

We remind the world that in this designation, the State of Israel has been mindful of the sanctity of this site to the Muslim faith; indeed, the Muslim entrance has been refurbished, and we anticipate the upgrading of the Jewish entrance.

We are thankful to the Almighty for allowing our generation to witness the official recognition of the significance of the site for the Jewish nation, and we applaud the Government of the State of Israel for this declaration.

Dr. Simcha Katz
President, Orthodox Union