My First Shabbat in Hebron
Before the holidays began, I had an opportunity to be in Hebron at the Cave of Machpelah. The tombs of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are there, as well as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. The spiritual portal to the Garden of Eden is there too, making it one of the most powerful sites for connection in the entire world – and although it is a place I’ve visited before, this was the first time I’d been able to be there for Shabbat.
The area with the tombs of Isaac and Rivka, as well as the entrance to the Garden of Eden, is currently under Muslim protection, restricting non-Muslim visitors from entering, so for me and a group of friends and students from the Kabbalah Centre to have been allowed in there, much less to connect on Shabbat, is completely illogical.
We landed in Israel on Friday and I met the driver who would be taking us to the different sites, a Palestinian fellow named Walid. Fortunately, we were not stopped at the military check point before crossing over into the occupied territories: It was just a couple of hours before Shabbat and we didn’t want to waste any time.
On the way to Hebron, we stopped quickly at three sites most of us including myself had never been to before: The mikveh of Abraham and Sarah, the burial site of NabiNoach, and the location of Atniel Ben Kenaz - known by the Palestinians as the Hebron Prophet. It’s interesting how many nations connect to the same spiritual sources in the same manner.
Kenaz was the first judge in the biblical time referred to as “The Judges’ Times” around 1030 BC, and it is said that in his 40 years of ruling, there was peace amongst all people.
Just as we arrived at that site, Walid received a call from his wife, telling him she’d just given birth to a baby boy. His first son, after three daughters.
I was in awe. “If your wife was in labor today, why aren’t you with her at the hospital?” I asked.
Walid explained, “Being here is bringing more Light and blessings to my family than being with them could.”
Although Walid was not a student at the Kabbalah Centre, he was able to feel the energy and connect. He felt what we were doing was important enough to make sure he was part of it. It was a meaningful moment for everyone and one I will never forget.
From there, we travelled to the city of Hebron. We entered on the Arab side, a street with many deserted houses, walls with bullet holes, a few kids on donkeys and some passing merchants. It is known to be a dangerous area and you can feel the tension and animosity there almost immediately. There we were, a group of non-Muslims, some Americans and some Israelies, all dressed in white walking into the city to celebrate Shabbat. Unheard of!
My mission was that we would connect with as many people as possible, to spread the Light anywhere we could, especially in such a city of conflict. At first, we simply joined a few people drinking their coffee in a local spot. Later that evening, we visited with the governor of Nablus, whom I met on my last trip when we instantly became friends. Although he invited me back to spend a Shabbat at his home in Hebron, this time there were sixty of us, so we went easy on him and stayed at a hotel. But he was a wonderful host and he was with us the entire time. The food was abundant and the hotel staff was all very friendly.
The following Saturday morning, we were up early and arrived at the Cave of Machpelah by 8:00 am.
Our hosts led us in through the Muslim entrance. I recognized it from years ago when I had been with my parents, before the area was occupied.
The Kabbalists teach that the righteous souls are in the Garden of Eden on Shabbat, and therefore we do not have access to them on the Sabbath day. But being at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, put us right there with them!
After our Muslim hosts led us to an area that is usually off limits, I asked our entire group to meditate to feel the pain of the local people, to feel the suffering from all the conflicts, and the sadness from so many lives lost. They were moved by our prayers, and one guard told us tearfully that no one had ever really spoken about their pain this way.
Needless to say, the whole Shabbat was one of the most elevated I’ve ever experienced.
The next day, someone showed me a photograph in the local newspaper. It was an image of the street we’d walked the night before, all of us wearing white, so peaceful and inspired. In the photo, that same street was the sight of a bloody and chaotic conflict. A man was killed there that Sunday.
I cannot convey the pain that I felt. I couldn’t stop thinking about those two different realities only 24 hours apart: The reality of peace and the reality of war.
We can come to any place and completely change the energy there. If we enter with peace and with love in our hearts, no matter where we are, the site can become a place of peace for as long as we are there. If we enter with anger, complaints or seeing the bad instead of the good, we can’t connect with the Light and we can’t spread the Light.
It’s easy to see and connect with the darkness – in places, people, and situations – but if we open our eyes and open our hearts just a little bit more, we can see so much good.
When we can arrive at any place with our hearts open, we can create a reality of peace.
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