The legalities of Ma’arat HaMachpela


The Prime Minister’s office door swung open. In strode the Attorney General and Justice Minister, unannounced, uninvited. As they sat down, another six suited men filed into the office, standing behind them.

Surprised, the Prime Minister waited.
Not for very long. The Justice Minister growled at him: “Mr. Prime Minister, this has to stop, and I mean stop, now!” The attorney general nodded his head in agreement.
“What are you speaking about?”
“Look Mr. Prime Minister, these settlers, the extremists in Hebron, they’ve done it again. And we must act fast, this is too much.”
The Prime Minister cleared his throat, looked at his watch, and seemed to squirm uncomfortably in his big, padded chair. “OK, uh, please clarify.”
v “It’s that cave, the cave and the field, and the building. All of the area called Machpela, Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, it’s all illegal.”
This time, not only did the attorney general nod in agreement. The other six-suited men, still standing, all hummed yes in unison, (almost as if they’d practiced).
She continued: “He, Abraham, he claims that he purchased all that from Ephron. Now we all know that property values, as they are, make that property worth much more that 400 shekels. I mean, come on, who’s he fooling?!
Some days ago a few men came into my office, claiming to be related to Ephron. One is the offspring of a cousin, another, of an uncle, and the third, of an illegitimate son.
Now, they all say that their ancestors too had a stake to all that property. You know, these clans, they share the wealth. They claim, first of all, that Ephron didn’t sell both caves, only part of the outer cave, and not all of that either, just part of it, enough to bury Abraham’s wife. So the inner cave, and at least half of the outer cave, belong to them. It was divided up into four parts. Ephron sold his half of the outer cave, and the other three parts were divided almost equally between the others. I mean, the illegitimate son claims a little more that the others, but, who knows. We still are checking that out.
Also the nonsense about the field. You really think it all belonged to Ephron? He had a small piece of land, adjacent to the caves, but that’s it. The rest belonged to the others, or, actually, their ancestors.
So, the cave and field must be returned.”
“But that’s not all.”
A huge grin appeared on the Attorney General’s face. The Justice Minister stomped on his foot, giving him a dirty look, and the grin disappeared, replaced with a solemn expression of pain.
We all know that Jews cannot buy anything from Arabs without expressed permission from the government. We’ve checked all the way back. Abraham never even filled in the papers. He didn’t ask for permits and they were never granted. In other words, his possession of the entire site is illegal. He should have been arrested and imprisoned. Look at all the problems he’s caused us.”
“And one more thing. The building. The building on top of the caves, was also built without the proper permits. We all know, no building in Hebron without a full government decision. We checked the protocols. Herod never consulted with anyone. The building is an eyesore and was illegally built.”
The attorney general and the other six-suited men puffed out their chests, and pointed their index fingers at the Prime Minister, as she exclaimed: “This is what we’ve been waiting for; a chance to close down Hebron. Without Machpela it is worthless. Get the Jews out and leave it to the Arabs.”
The Prime Minister sat still for a few moments, looked at them, and queried: What happens when this goes to the Supreme Court. After all, the Jews there will certainly find some witnesses to testify on their behalf. I’m sure, if they look hard enough, they’ll find someone saying he’s related to Abraham and try to prove that everything was done right, all the papers were signed legally, and the ruling powers agreed to the deal. And concerning Herod, truthfully, I once heard that there were a few people who objected to the construction of that building.”
The Attorney General stared at the Prime Minister in disbelief. “That’s a state secret. How do you know?”
The Prime Minister ignored the question and continued, “and those who opposed it, well, they were used as stuffing for some of the hollow stones…”
The Justice Minister, clearing her throat, continued growling: Don’t worry, it’s all taken care of. I’ve already spoken to the President of the Court. He’s familiar with the facts, and won’t allow a few minute ‘details’ change history. It’s a done deal.”
The Prime Minister froze. “But, what about Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah, Jacob and Leah? If we void the deal, then they are all there illegally. We cannot afford to let the founders of our people continue to break international law. If it never really belonged to them , except maybe Sarah, so what do we do with them?”
The Justice Minister snarled: “We’ve checked it all out. You see, the six of them were entirely unfair, leaving Matriarch Rachel all by herself. So we are going to move all of them, including Rachel, so that they’ll be altogether, in an undisputed place, in holy, eternal rest. This will also solve our problems in Bethlehem.”
The Prime Minister sighed, “And where might that be, a place where the Arabs have no claims, and we’ll never have to go thru this again?”
The Attorney General piped up, “Next week is when the Torah portion speaks of Sarah’s burial, this seems like the perfect time, and all those Jews who go to celebrate in Hebron, well, they can all escort them, a really big funeral.”
The Prime Minister, now showing his impatience: “Yeah, but where, where?”
“It was a little expensive, but we negotiated and the Arabs have agreed never to make a claim…”
“We purchased seven plots next to Rebbi Nachman in Uman, in the Ukraine…”