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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hebron

(Palestine Twitter)-Hebron, الخليل, al-Ḫalīl, חֶבְרוֹן, Standard Hebrew: Ḥevron, Tiberian: Ḥeḇrôn ISO 259-3: Ḥebron), is located in the southern West Bank, 30 km (19 mi) south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters (3,050 ft) above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter. The city is most notable for containing the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs and is therefore considered the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem. The city is also venerated by Muslims for its association with Abraham and was traditionally viewed as one of the "four holy cities of Islam.
Hebron is a busy hub of West Bank trade, responsible for roughly a third of the area's gross domestic product, largely due to the sale of marble from quarries. It is locally well-known for its grapes, figs, limestone, pottery workshops and glassblowing factories, and is the location of the major dairy product manufacturer, al-Junaidi. The old city of Hebron is characterized by narrow, winding streets, flat-roofed stone houses, and old bazaars. The city is home to Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic University.

Cave of the Patriarchs
The most famous historic site in Hebron sits on the Cave of the Patriarchs. The site is holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to Genesis, Abraham purchased the cave and the field surrounding it from Ephron the Hittite to bury his wife Sarah; Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah were later buried in the cave. Thus, Hebron is referred to in Judaism as "the City of the Patriarchs", and regarded as one of its Four Holy Cities. (The remaining matriarch, Rachel, is buried outside Bethlehem). Over and around the cave itself, churches, synagogues and mosques have since been built. The Isaac Hall is now the Ibrahimi Mosque, and the Abraham Hall and Jacob Hall serve as a Jewish synagogue. In medieval Christian tradition, Hebron was one of the three cities, along with Juttah and Ain Karim, that boasted of being the home of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and wife of Zacharias, and thus possibly the birthplace of the Baptist himself.

Etymology
The name "Hebron" traces back to two Semitic roots, which coalesce in the form ḥbr, having reflexes in Hebrew, Amorite and Arabic, and denoting a range of meanings from "colleague", "unite", "friend" or "to be noisy". In the proper name Hebron, the sense may be alliance. In Arabic, Ibrahim al-Khalil (إبراهيم الخليل) means "Abraham the friend", according to Islamic teaching signifying that, God chose Abraham as his friend.

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