This past week was Parshat Chayei Sarah and I had the good fortune of being in Chevron for Shabbat. I was in Israel for only three days (approximately 80 hours) and was asked many times, “You’ve come to Israel for such a short stay?” Let me explain. I have been to Chevron many times, but it’s always special to be there for this unique Shabbat. Thirty thousand people from all over Israel and many from abroad take the time to make the trip to show that Chevron is and will always be an integral part of Jewish life.
My host for Shabbat was the Yeshivat Shavei Chevron, which is situated in the Bet Romano section. You know you are in Chevron, the home of Abraham, when you see all the boys and rabbeim of the yeshiva exhibiting such great hachnasas orchim. These are special people who choose to live their lives with such commitment to Eretz Yisrael with very few of the amenities that we all take for granted. Their commitment to Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael is second to none. The yeshiva’s students spend three years in the army and then years committed to only learning Torah in the city of our fathers.
As you make your way to the Me’arat Hamachpelah Friday night, you see the hundreds of soldiers who come to Chevron for this weekend. As many people pass them, they say ‘thank you’ and ‘Shabbat Shalom.’ You see on their faces that they know they are doing something special for the Jewish people. Davening at the Me’ara on Friday night is packed (even though Ohel Yitzchak is open for one of only 10 days the whole year) with many people not even being able to make it into the building.
Seudat Shabbat at the yeshiva is incredibly inspiring with the yeshiva boys singing and dancing with all the guests and rabbanim. Dayan Yonatan Abraham, from London, spoke on Friday night telling everyone how this Shabbat means so much to him and how he gets chizuk from the yeshiva boys. Also in attendance this year was Rabbi Dovid Weinberger of Shaarei Tefilah of Lawrence and Rabbi Hershel Billet of Woodmere, who also gave divrei Torahthroughout Shabbat.
After the seudah the guests walk through the different neighborhoods of Chevron with the highlight being the Tel Romeda neighborhood, where we were greeted at the home of Baruch Meisel, a long time resident of Chevron. Here you get the true spirit of what it is to live in Chevron, along with hot cholent and an oneg Shabbat. Many visit the tombs of Ruth and Yishai in the hills of Chevron, high above the field of the Me’arat Hamachpelah. In the morning it’s back to the Me’ara to hear the parsha about how Avraham bought the Me’arat Hamachpelah for a burial site for Sarah to be a legacy for the Jewish people forever.
After the afternoon seudah a large group walks through the Kasbah, the original Jewish quarter of Chevron and now the Arab shuk of Chevron, under heavy army guard. The group sang Am Yisrael Chai and the locals didn’t look too happy. But in the end there were no incidents, and we once again found ourselves at the Me’ara and the tomb of Avner ben Ner, the general of Dovid Hamelech.
Minchah was followed by seudah shlishit back at the yeshiva. At this meal there is always a special treat as the colonel who heads the Chevron Brigade, Guy Hazut, is in attendance and addresses the crowd. This year, as he rose to speak, the boys of the yeshiva sang a special heart warming and inspiring song about those who stand to protect us. Then Shabbat came to a close all too quickly, and I can only hope to return to Chevron to be inspired and uplifted again next year.
This year the yeshiva is celebrating it’s 32nd year in Chevron and on Sunday night there was a gala dinner in Jerusalem attended by Knesset members, past and present cabinet ministers, high ranking army officers and hundreds of alumni, all committed to the realization of the great work the yeshiva does to continue the Jewish presence in Chevron forever.
Special thanks to Dovi Weiss of Yeshivat Shavei Chevron for his amazing hospitality, as always.