In what has become a yearly tradition at the holy site, hundreds of Jewish worshipers packed the Cave of the Patriarchs (also known as the Cave of Machpela) in Hevron for a mass prayer led by two leading rabbis from Tzfat (Safed), the heart of Jewish mysticism in Israel: Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Eyal Ya'akobovich.
Worshipers flocked from all across Israel yesterday for dawn prayers, which included an uplifting musical "hallel" prayer – led by a guitar-strumming Rabbi Ya'akobovich.
The second holiest site in Judaism, the Cave of the Patriarchs is the burial site of the Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs (apart from Rachel, whose tomb is in Bethlehem). According to some traditions it is also the burial site of Adam and Eve.
After its ancient Jewish community was ethnically-cleansed by Arab rioters in 1929, Hevron – which also served as King David's first capital – remained bereft of Jews for several decades until, after its liberation by the State of Israel in 1967, successive attempts to reestablish the Jewish community finally bore fruit.
Today, though hemmed in on all sides by hostile Arab neighborhoods, the small but resilient Jewish community of Hevron acts as guardians of the Cave of the Patriarchs, which in more recent times Muslims have attempted to claim as the "Mosque of Ibrahim."
Thousands of Jews from Israel and the Diaspora visit the holy site regularly, via a complex but usually effective sharing arrangement with local Muslims.