Sarah Nachshon and the Ancient Jewish Cemetery in Hebron

By Noam Arnon


A baby boy was born to Baruch and Sarah Nachshon in 1975. Baruch, a famous Hasidic artist and his wife Sarah were among the first Jews to return to Hebron. Following the establishment of Kiryat Arba the Nachshons celebrated the birth of a son and decided to perform the brit milah inside the cave of the Machpelah—burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. The baby was named Avraham Yedidya.

Three months later, Sarah found Avraham Yedidya dead in his crib. The young mother was beside herself. Why should her new son, brought into the covenant of Abraham in Hebron in the most ancient city of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, be taken from her after only three months? Everything in this world has a purpose. What was the purpose of her three-month-old son?

Sarah decides that Avraham Yedidya would be buried in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. The cemetery had been last used to inter the 67 Jews slaughtered in the 1929 riots in Hebron. It is minutes from the traditional graves of Ruth and Jesse and overlooks the Cave of the Machpelah. Perhaps, Sarah thinks, this was the purpose of the baby, to take part in a sad but vital part of renewing Jewish Hebron. After almost fifty years, the Jewish cemetery of Hebron would again be utilized as a Jew’s last resting place.

Late afternoon: the funeral procession leaves Kir-yat Arba for the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron. Then, suddenly the mourners encounter soldiers and roadblocks! The cars come to a halt. Soldiers begin scouring the site, opening car doors, searching for something. “No, you may not proceed to the cemetery,” the soldiers order the mourners, “The cemetery is off-limits”. One of the car doors opens. A women gets out with a bundle in her arms.

She addresses the soldiers, “Are you looking for me—are you looking for my baby? My name is Sarah Nachshon. Here is my baby, in my arms. If you won’t let us drive to the cemetery we will walk!”

Men with shovels and flashlights, and women, Kiryat Arba residents, walk through ancient Hebron as night falls. They pass the Cave of the Machpelah. They pass the 450-year-old Abraham Avinu synagogue, left in ruins, destroyed by the Jordanian conquerors in 1948. Blockades, set up to stop the crowd, are pushed aside. Senior officers give orders over their walkie-talkies: “Stop them—don’t let them proceed”—but the soldiers, overcome by the scene, radio back: “We can’t stop them. If you want to stop them come down here and do it yourselves”.

The procession continues, past Beit Romano, Beit Schneerson, home of Menucha Rachel Schneerson Slonim, granddaughter of the “Ba’al HaTanya,” up the steep hill to the ancient cemetery.

Moonlight illuminates the field. Sarah Nachshon releases the body of her tiny son, Avraham Yedidya, and it is lowered into the freshly dug grave. The grave site is only meters from the mass grave of 1929. Mustering her voice, Sarah utters: “Four thousand years ago our Patriarch Abraham purchased Hebron for the Jewish People by burying his wife Sarah here. Tonight Sarah is repurchasing Hebron for the Jewish People by burying her son Avraham here”.


“Sarah Nachshon and the Ancient Jewish Cemetery in Hebron.”

Reprinted with permission from the publisher