Monday, April 23, 2012

Buying a cave in Hebron: The other side of the story

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In memory of Beit HaShalom, Beit HaMachpela, Beit Shapira, and (hopefully not) Beit Zachariya.

He heard footsteps approaching the tent. He started calling to his wife, to request she prepare a meal for the guests. But then stopped short. His beloved Sarah was gone. Only last week he’d buried her.

He opened the door and was startled to see about a dozen police, in uniform, crowding around the entrance. But then, looking at them closely, he breathed a sigh of relief. They were all adorned with ‘stars of david’ on their cuffs. Landsmen. His own.

Stepping outside he said, “Yes, my good friends. How can I be of assistance? Perhaps I can honor you with a good meal and some drink? Please come in and recite a blessing.”

The highest ranking officer cleared his throat and growled, “Are you Abraham the Hebrew?” Please show me your identification papers.”
Abraham, slightly flustered, turned to return inside. Suddenly he felt his arms in the grips of others. Two of the police were holding him tightly, escorting him back into his home. When he attempted to free himself, they squeezed harder.

“You asked for my identification card. Please let me get it for you.” One of the police released his hold, but stood close by.

Abraham opened a drawer, pushed aside some papers, found the necessary documents and handed them to the officer.

“It is written here that you are married. Where is your wife? Bring her here at once.”
Abraham gulped, and blinking back tears, answered, “Sarah is gone. She died suddenly while I was away with Yitzhak. We buried her last week, here in Hebron.”
“How can I help you gentlemen? Why are you here?”
“Abraham the Hebrew, you are under arrest. I have orders to take you to the local police station for immediate questioning. You are suspected of a heinous crime. Please do not cause us any trouble and come with us at once.”

The officer nodded his head at one of the other police, who promptly grabbed Abraham’s arms, pushed them behind his back and handcuffed them. Pushed along, none to gently from behind, Abraham had no choice but to follow them.

At the station Abraham was pushed into a chair, where he sat, waiting, for quite some time. Suddenly a group of people stomped in. Another, higher ranking officer, moved aside, and pointing at Abraham, asked the man behind him, “Is this him? Is this the one?”

The other man, a well-dressed villager, seemed to jump up and down and exclaimed, ‘yes it’s him. He’s the one. For sure. I could identify him anywhere!”
“Abraham the Hebrew,” declared the officer, “you are hereby accused of stealing the Machpela cave and the surrounding field, owned by Efron the Hittite, who has just positively identified you as the thief. Do you have anything to say on your behalf?”
Seemingly shocked, Abraham was, at first, speechless. Then he closed his eyes, and could be seen quietly moving his lips. His eyes opened, he stared directly into the eyes of the officer, and responded, “I did not, I repeat, I did not steal, the Machpela cave and field. I purchased them legally from Efrone the Hittite. There were many witnesses.”

“So you deny the charges of theft?”

“Yes I do. I paid a tremendous sum for the cave and field, four hundred silver shekels. There are witnesses to that too.”

Turning to the villager, the officer asked, “and what do you say, Efrone the Hittite?”

“Yes, well I did meet with this man, but we did not reach any agreement.”

“And you did not receive any money from him?

“Yes, of course I received silver shekels from him. He has been using the cave as a place of pagan worship for years. He is a strange man, saying that he prays to only one G-d.  A strange man indeed. He rented the cave from me for many years, using it daily. But I would never sell it to him.”

“Abraham, do you have a contract?”

“Ah, ah yes, but it cannot be revealed yet, not for another few hundred years. But I can give you a hint.”

“Yes, yes, go on.”

My family will leave here for hundreds of years. We will sojourn south to Egypt. Returning here, my offspring will receive the word of the living G-d, the Torah, the Bible, and there will be the eyewitness account of the purchase. What proof could be better than that?”

“That is clearly not good enough. The word of G-d is not sufficient. First of all, it is forbidden to sell caves to Hebrews. Second, the buyer must seek a license from the local ruler. Otherwise the purchase is invalid. You are law officers. You know this law. Don’t you?”
“Ah yes, ah, Abraham, did you receive the necessary permits to make the purchase? Where is your license?”
“I did receive permission from, ah, well, you’ll never believe this, but I really did, receive a permit from…”

“Yes, yes?”

“From Adam.”

“From who!?!”

“From Adam, and his wife Eve.” They okayed the purchase of the cave.”

“Perhaps you can explain yourself.”

“Well, many years ago I discovered them, also interred in the Machpela cave, and struck up a conversation with them. They liked me, and said I could use the cave too, for Sarah, and myself, when the time came.”

Efrone again jumped, exclaiming, “they have criminal records. That Adam and Eve. I’ve heard they also disobey orders. They are not to be believed. Neither is this man. He has no permit to use my cave! Give it back, give it back!”

“Abraham, we hereby judge you guilty of theft of the Machpela cave and field. You must return it to Efrone.”

“But Sarah, she’s buried there. So are Adam and Eve. What about them?”

The officer took out a piece of paper, scribbled on it, and gave to another policeman.

“Take this to the cave. This is an expulsion order. Get them all out. If need be, use force. Get the three of them out of the cave before nightfall.”

An hour later, hundreds of uniformed police surrounded the cave. Using a megaphone, the officer in charge yelled inside: “Everybody out. Yes, every body! Adam, Eve, Sarah, you must find another final resting place. This does not belong to you. You are occupiers. Out, now!

Moments later, the three of them straggled out. Squinting into the setting sun light, Sarah asked, “where to now?”

Adam looking at Eve and then at Abraham, shrugged his shoulders. “If I’d known it was going to be like this, I’d never have agreed to leave the garden.”

“Come on guys, let’s go. We’re not wanted here any more.”

With that, they wondered away, never to be seen again.

Good thing there weren’t Israeli security forces and an Israeli government back in the days of Abraham, or the above might very well have occurred.

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