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The Cave of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah (Hebrew: מערת המכפלה, Me'arat HaMachpela, Trans. "Cave of the Double Tombs"; Arabic: المغارة‎ Al Magharah, "the Cave") is a series of subterranean caves located in a complex called by Muslims the Sanctuary of Abraham or Ibrahimi Mosque (Arabic: الحرم الإبراهيمي‎, Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi. The name is either a reference to the layout of the burial chamber, or alternatively refers to the biblical couples, i.e: cave of the tombs of couples.
The compound, located in the ancient city of Hebron, is the second holiest site for Jews (after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and is also venerated by Christians and Muslims all of whom have some traditions which maintain that the site is the burial place of four Biblical couples: Adam and Eve; Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah; Jacob and Leah, though some early Christians asserted that Adam lies buried under Golgotha. According to Midrash and other sources the Cave of the Patriarchs also contains the head of Esau, and according to some Islamic sources it is also the tomb of Joseph. Though the Bible has Joseph buried in Shechem (the present-day Palestinian city of Nablus), Jewish aggadic tradition conserved the idea that he wished to be interred at Hebron, and the Islamic version may reflect this. The Jewish apocryphal book The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, also states that this is the burial place of Jacob's twelve sons.
After the Six Day War, the area came under the control of Israel, and the restriction limiting Jews to the 7th step was lifted. In 1994 Baruch Goldstein took an assault rifle into the enclosure and killed 29 Palestinian Muslims at prayer, as well as injuring 125 others, before being bludgeoned to death by survivors. The resulting riots left an additional 26 Palestinians and 9 Israelis dead, and the incident provoked national and international condemnation of Goldstein's actions.
The increased sensitivity of the site meant that in 1995 the Wye River Accords, part of the Arab-Israeli peace process, included a temporary status agreement for the site, restricting access for both Jews and Muslims. As part of this agreement, the waqf—a traditional "trust" holding land for Islamic religious purposes—controls 81% of the building. This includes the whole of the southeastern section, which lies above the only known entrance to the caves, and possibly over the entirety of the caves themselves. In consequence, Jews are not permitted to visit the Cenotaphs of Isaac or Rebekah, which lie entirely within the southeastern section, except for 10 days a year which hold special significance in Judaism. One of these days is the Shabbat of Chayei Sarah, when the Jews read the Torah portion concerning the death of Abraham and Sarah, and that concerning the purchase by Abraham of the land in which the caves are situated.
The Israeli authorities do not allow Jewish religious authorities the right to maintain the site, and only allow the waqf to do so. Tourists are permitted to enter the site. Security at the site has increased since the Intifada, and the Israel Defense Forces surround the site with soldiers, and control access to the shrines.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_the_Patriarchs

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Camera: Canon A1

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