Holy Land: Abraham's Resting Place

You can read more about the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron at Wikipedia. There is also an article about the horrifying event known as "The Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre" when an American-born Israeli shot and killed 29 Palestinian Muslims who were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque. The event is also known as the Hebron Massacre, but that term is also used for the Hebron Massacre of 1929 in which 67 Jewish residents of Hebrew were killed by Palestinians.

For more about Hebron, which is the largest city in the West Bank and second largest after Gaza in the Palestinian territories, being jointly administered by the Palestinian Authority and by Israel, see Wikipedia: Hebron.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Holy Land Folklore unit. Story source: Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J. E. Hanauer (1907).

Abraham's Resting Place

Ibrahìm had obtained from Allah the promise that he should not die until he expressly wished to do so, and thus when the predestined day arrived, the Almighty was obliged, since his "Friend" had not expressed the wish, to inveigle it from him.

As before said, Ibrahìm was very hospitable. One day, seeing a very old man tottering along the road to his encampment, he sent a servant with a donkey to his assistance. When the stranger arrived, Ibrahìm made him welcome and set food before him. But when the guest began to eat, his feebleness seemed to increase. It was with difficulty he carried the food to his mouth.

At last El-Khalìl, who had been watching him with surprise and pity, inquired, "What ails thee, O Sheykh?"

"It is the weakness of old age," was the reply.

"How old are you?" asked Ibrahìm, and, on hearing the answer, "What!" he exclaimed, " shall I, when I am two years older, be as you are now?"

"Undoubtedly," replied the stranger.

At that El-Khalìl cried out: "O Lord God, take away my soul before I reach so pitiful a condition!" Hereupon the sheykh, who was Azrael in disguise, sprang up and received the soul of the Friend of Allah.

Ibrahìm was laid to rest in the cave of Machpelah at Hebron, by the side of Sarah his wife. His son Isaac and his grandson Jacob were also, as time rolled on, buried in the same place.

However, it is a mistake to say that they are in tombs and dead, for as a matter of fact they are not dead, but living. These prophets, like David and Elijah, still appear sometimes in order to save God's servants in times of danger or distress, as in the following story, which I relate as it was told me by the chief rabbi of the Jews at Hebron.

Some two centuries ago, a pasha, deputed to collect the taxes in Palestine, came to Hebron and informed the Jewish community that, unless within three days they paid a large sum of money, their quarter would be looted and wrecked.

The Jews of Hebron were very poor and had no hope of procuring so much money. They could only fast and pray for succour in their dire extremity. The night before the day on which the money must be paid was spent by them in ceaseless prayer in the synagogue. About midnight they heard loud knocking at one of the gates of their quarter. Some of them went and, trembling, asked who it was who thus disturbed them.

"A Friend," was the reply.

Still they dared not open. But the man without thrust his hand through the solid door and placed a large bag in a hole of the wall within. The arm was withdrawn again, and all was still. The bag was found to contain the exact sum in gold demanded by the pasha.

The Jews next morning presented themselves before their oppressor and laid the money at his feet. At sight of the bag, he blenched and asked how they came by it. They told their story, and he confessed that the bag and its contents had been his until the middle of last night, when, though his tent was straitly guarded, a sheykh in bright raiment had come in and taken it, threatening him with instant death if he moved or said a word. He knew that it was El-Khalìl, come to rescue the Jews, and begged their pardon for his harsh exactions.

The Jews of Hebron still show the hole in the wall in which the bag of money was placed by Ibrahìm.

(600 words)

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