This page provides detailed information about the ancient city of Hebron, one of the key cities in the Palestinian Authority. Many of the products featured on this site come from Hebron, which provides local markets for the people of Al-Kaabneh, located about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away on the edge of the Dead Sea desert.
Photos of hisotrical sites, markets and people give a sense of the deep religious significance of this place, which is sacred to the Moslem, Jewish and Christian religions.
Hebron is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the world. Remains dating back to the ancient, middle and modern stone ages have been found in Hebron. Excavations have proven that the history of the city can be traced back to earlier than the year 3500 B.C. Recently, archeologists discovered 40 clay jugs, 4000 years old, at the entrance to nearby Tel Hebron.
The Ancient Canaanite name for the city of Hebron is Arbo'a, which is derived from the word "four." It is believed that the city was called so because it is surrounded by four main mountains, or because the area hosted four confederated settlements in biblical times.
An ancient Canaanite royal city, Hebron was founded "seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Numbers 13:22). Zoan was the capital of the Hyksos invaders, and has been dated to the 18th century BC.
After the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, Hebron was one of the cities visited by spies sent by Moses. Later, Joshua fought the Battle of Aijalon near here, where "the sun stood still," against a confederation of Amorite chiefs including the "king of Hebron" (Joshua 10). Just outside the village is the mosque of Nabi Yunus which, according to Muslim tradition, is built over the grave of the prophet Jonah. During the time of Jesus Christ, some houses were built around the cemetery wall, which soon became a village known as "House of Abrahim". Jesus visited here often, and there is an active Christian community in modern Hebron.
The present Arabic name of Hebron is Al Khalil, meaning "the friend." The city was named after Prophet Abraham who was called "Khalil" in the Quran:
In ancient Hebrew, the name for a nearby ancient settlement is Kiriath Arba: "the suburb of four." The Jewish holy scriptures say that the this name was given because four couples were buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Leah, Isaac and Rebecca.
For Muslims, Hebron is holy because the Magarat ("Cave") is located there, where Muslims believe that Abraham, the father of all the prophets, was buried. Muslims have an absolute belief in the prophecies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the Torah, as the word of God. In the holy Muslim book, the Quran, Abraham, Jacob and Isaac were named 73, 18 and 16 times respectively, as opposed to only 4 times for the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Jews and Christians revere the Cave for the same reasons.
The Book of Genesis tells that the patriarch Abraham purchased the Cave in Hebron for the full market price of 400 silver shekels:
King David, the son of Solomon (c. 10th century BC) was ordered by God to go to Hebron; he was anointed king of Israel there, and made it his capital for 7-1/2 years, until the taking of Jerusalem (II Samuel 2-5). King Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 BC) built a wall around the cave of Mach-pelah, portions of which survive beneath additions by Byzantines, crusaders, and Mamluks. The Muslims ruled the city almost continuously from AD 635 until after World War I.
Modern Hebron is a city of 40,000 people: an agricultural, marketing and trade centre, with glass, brass, ceramic, pottery and leather crafts, as well as cotton products, olivewood carvings, dried fruits, fine grapes and wines, all found in a central bazaar over 3000 years old. Quarries in the surrounding hills export highly-prized, distinctive rose-colored stone and marble throughout the Middle East.
The Cave of Mach-pelah in the center of the city is surmounted by a large mosque, al-Haram al-Ibrahimi al-Khalil (The Sanctuary of Abraham, the Friend). After the Six-Day War (1967), the tombs of the patriarchs were opened to all worshippers for the first time in exactly 700 years. Both Muslim and Jewish services are now held in the cave.