Prince Rudolph, son and heir to the Austrian monarch Franz Josef, visited Palestine at the turn of the century and recounted his trip to Chevron in his memoirs:
Upon reaching Hebron I immediately went to the cave of Machpela. There I was overwhelmed at the realization that my feet stood at the sepulcher of the saintly Hebrew Patriarchs. Involuntarily, I knelt down, lifted my hands toward heaven, and with tears streaming from my eyes, I said, “Holy Patriarch Abraham: You who was proclaimed thousands of years ago ‘Prince of God’ by Ephron the Hittite, whose offer of a burial ground for your dead princess, you declined, open your eyes and observe the lot of your ten million children dispersed and scattered among all lands, persecuted and oppressed by tyrants and murderers, hated and hounded by cruel foes, they, your children, can find no resting place even for money. Fearful and sad is the lot and the life of your children, holy Abraham. I will endeavor with all my power to help your unfortunate children when I ascend the throne of Austria.” (Quoted in The Warmth and the Light; Rav Aharon Soleveichik)
These noble words were uttered by a Christian inspired by the example of Abraham’s devotion and love of the Jewish people. Our love for Eretz Yisroel and Klal Yisroel must be tenfold.
Avrohom insisted on paying for his own land. Perhaps he foresaw the antagonistic claims of the nations claiming that we stole the land. Perhaps he even saw a generation of his own Jewish descendants that would question their own inheritance. Avrohom wanted to do whatever he possibly could to establish our ownership of Eretz Yisroel and a safe haven for the Jewish people. It is for this reason that King David purchased the Temple Mount from Ornan for six hundred golden shekels (Divrei Hayamim 1 21; 25) and that Yaakov bought Joseph’s burial place in Shechem (Breishis 33; 19).
Three thousand seven hundred years have passed since Avrohom Avinu bought Hebron. A century has passed since the King of Austria visited. Much has happened. We are once again being called upon to demonstrate our devotion. Young Jewish men and women from New York, Monsey, Paris, Morocco and Jerusalem have created a life for themselves in Hebron, exactly in the places that Avrohom walked. Today their homes are once again being unfairly threatened. The legal documents are in place but the document of history must also be recognized, if not by the world at least be Jews. Hebron belongs to the Jewish people. We must rise to the call of the day. Whether it be the Beit HaShalom in Hebron or the Kotel in Jerusalem, the Jewish right to Hebron and to all of Eretz Yisroel remains absolute. We must pray for the true peace for all of Israel.
This weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of Max Heller A”H by my friends Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Rubin of Baltimore.