Photo Credit: Tzipi Shlissel/TPS
The new elevator at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, May 15, 2023.

After 30 years of legal and political battles, Israel will inaugurate an elevator to improve handicap accessibility at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs on June 8.

The Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration sent out invitations on Wednesday.


The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the burial place of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. It is one of Israel’s most visited tourist sites.

The $1.6 million project includes a sloped path linking the parking area to the tomb, an elevator and an enclosed footbridge connecting the elevator to the entrance of the holy site.

Until now, visitors had to go up “around 30 steps” between the street and the entrance to the Tomb. After entering the building, visitors had to climb another 60 steps to reach the prayer area, said Elimelech Karzen, one of the managers of the tomb.

“We have people who come in wheelchairs, people who can’t walk, pregnant women, old people that want to visit Ma’arat HaMachpelah,” Karzen said, using the Hebrew name for the site.

“Even regular people who are tired. They don’t want to climb 60 or 100 stairs. People need elevators. It’s 2023. Each time to go up and down, it’s very difficult,” he said.

Karzen noted that before the coronavirus pandemic, the holy site had 1.5 million visitors a year. Visitors are returning in increasing numbers, making the need for the elevator more acute.

Efforts to build the elevator were mired in legal petitions filed by Palestinians, who claimed that the elevator damaged the site’s archaeological and architectural significance, and that Israel illegally expropriated land for the initiative. A High Court of Justice ruling in November 2021 cleared away the last legal hurdles.

For security reasons, the tomb is divided into Jewish and Muslim areas. A rotation system allows Jews and Muslims to visit each other’s side on certain religious holidays.


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