Today I visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Israel. It’s where Abraham, a man celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Jews, is believed to be buried (as well as other notables from the early family of the bible). After the 1994 massacre the tomb was divided in half. From the Israeli side of the tomb, you can only enter the areas in blue. From the Palestinian side, you can only enter the areas in yellow. The excellent Hebron tour I took allowed access from both sides, with an Israeli guide for one half and a Palestinian guide for the other.
One thread running through the bible, a line of thinking shared by both my friend Bryan Zug and the tour guide I had for half of the tour, is that the story of humanity is really about sibling strife. We get lost in the drama about humanity and god, but if you focus on the sibling stories, Cain and Abel. Isaac and Ishmael, The Prodigal Son, you discover a different lesson, another way to see what the stories may be trying to tell us. Many books of the bible, or any chapter of the history of Jerusalem, reveals a litany of brothers, sisters and family working against each other.
I was hoping that visiting the Cave of Patriarchs, the site built to remember the one person that unifies all three faiths, would fill me with a sense of connection. But as I entered each site of the now divided building I couldn’t help but think perhaps there was a lesson here we were all working very hard not to learn.
The cenotaph for Abraham is a beautifully ornate green stonework, but it’s hidden behind iron spars. And if you look carefully through the gaps you can see the window on the other side, where the faithful of another faith can honor the same heritage, looking through their own set of protective glass and steel bars.