1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hebron

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HEBRON (mod. Khulīl er-Rahmān, i.e. “the friend of the Merciful One”—an allusion to Abraham), a city of Palestine some 20 m. S. by S.W. of Jerusalem. The city, which lies 3040 ft. above the sea, is of extreme antiquity (see Num. xiii. 22, and Josephus, War, iv. 9, 7) and until taken by the Calebites (Josh. xv. 13) bore the name Kirjath-Arba. Biblical traditions connect it closely with the patriarch Abraham and make it a “city of refuge.” The town figures prominently under David as the headquarters of his early rule, the scene of Abner’s murder and the centre of Absalom’s rebellion. In later days the Edomites held it for a time, but Judas Maccabaeus recovered it. It was destroyed in the great war under Vespasian. In A.D. 1167 Hebron became the see of a Latin bishop, and it was taken in 1187 by Saladin In 1834 it joined the rebellion against Ibrahim Pasha, who took the town and pillaged it. Modern Hebron rises on the east slope of a shallow valley-a long narrow town of stone houses, the flat roofs having small stone domes. The main quarter is about 700 yds. long, and two smaller groups of houses exist north and south of this. The hill behind is terraced, and luxuriant vineyards and fruit plantations surround the place, which is well watered on the north by three principal springs, including the Well Sirah, now 'Ain Sara (2 Sam. iii. 26). Three conspicuous minarets rise, two from the Hararn, the other in the north quarter. The population (10,000) includes Moslems and about 500 Jews. The Bedouins bring wool and camel’s hair to the market; and glass bracelets, lamps and leather water skins are manufactured in the town. The most conspicuous building is the Haram built over the supposed site of the cave of Machpelah. It is an enclosure measuring 112 ft. east and west by 198 north and south, surrounded with high rampart walls of masonry similiar in size and dressing to that of the Jerusalem Haram walls. These ramparts are ascribed by architectural authorities to the Herodian period. The interior area is partly occupied by a 12th century Gothic church, and contains six modern cenotaphs of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. The cave beneath the platform has probably not been entered for at least 600 years. The numerous traditional sites now shown round Hebron are traceable generally to medieval legendary topography; they include the Oak of Mamre (Gen. xiii. 18 R V) which has at various times been shown in different positions from ¾ to 2 m. from the town.

There are a British medical mission, a German Protestant mission with church and schools, and, near Abraham’s Oak, a Russian mission Since 188O several notices of the Haram, within which are the tombs of the Patriarchs, have appeared.

See C. R. Conder, Pal. Exp. Fund, Memoirs, iii. 333, &c.; Riant, Archives de l’orient latin, ii 411, &c, Dalton and Chaplin, P. E. F. Quarterly Statement (1897); Goldziher, “Das Patriarchengrab in Hebron,” in Zeitschrift d. Dn. Pal. Vereins, xvii.  (R. A. S. M.)