There was an uncommon sight on Motzoei Shabbos at the Meoras Hamachpeilah in Chevron, when the kever of Yitzchok Avinu, which is usually only open to Muslim worshippers, was also opened to Jews.
Jewish worshippers have seldom been allowed in the hall since 1994, when Baruch Goldstein shot dead 29 Muslims there, before he was killed by Israeli security forces.
The hall was opened Motzoei Shabbos for a visit by Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto of New York.
The Ashdod-born Rabbi Pinto has in recent years been living in Manhattan, where he has become a widely influential figure, successfully securing donations for his “Shuva Israel” organization. Rabbi Pinto says he believes that the Jewish world is based on charity.
On Motzoei Shabbos, Rabbi Pinto arrived in Chevron in a convoy of some 20 buses and cars. The Muslim Waqf, the religious trust that controls sites holy to Islam, covered the tomb’s prayer carpet with mats for the occasion.
Giving a drasha, Rabbi Pinto noted that “people don’t know the great value that this place has. The soul of every Jew who has died arrives at this cave’s entrance.”
In honor of the visit, Rabbi Pinto and his followers decided to double their charitable enterprise, as a giving of thanks to Hashem. Rabbi Pinto funds 10 soup kitchens in Israel, including two in his native Ashdod, which provide 8,000 hot meals every day. His organization also distributes food baskets to 12,000 needy families and donates $1,000 per month hundreds of Jewish widows around the world.
The 500 Jews who reside in the Chevron area took advantage of Rabbi Pinto’s visit to step up their campaign for more money for the Meoras Hamachpeilah. The government has approved the addition of the Meoras Hamachpeilah on the national heritage list, although, in reality, it is not among the heritage sites that receives government funding.
Noam Arnon, the spokesman for Chevron’s residents, told Haaretz, “The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a center which attracts hundreds of thousands of Jews each year. The public, including every type and group, and rabbis from every sect in Israel and abroad visit here. We expect the government to implement their declaration to add the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the national heritage list, and allocate the resources for maintaining the place in a way that is befitting a place with deep-seated Jewish roots. In the meantime, this is not happening.”