Beit Midrash

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  • Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu
To dedicate this lesson

The son of the king

The sheikh in charge of the Cave of the Patriachs in Hebron shouted "You show no respect to the holy place!". Everyone was silent – apart from one.


No Rabbi

After the Six Day War, the soldiers reached the Cave of the Patriachs in Hebron. It has to be noted that although the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs are entombed there, the Arabs did not permit Jews to enter. They claimed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob belonged only to them, and gave permission for Jews to enter only until the seventh step.

After the Six Day War, after Israel forces liberated Hebron, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim sent Rabbi Eliyahu to attend to the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Western Wall, and Rachel’s Tomb. When they were at the Cave, a number of soldiers came in - the first time after the battles.
There were many soldiers there and high ranking army commanders, amongst them Yitzchak Rabin, Haim Bar Lev, and Uzi Narkiss, who was then the Chief Commander in the central region. There were also a number of prominent rabbis there.

Some of the soldiers were injured, some hungry, and most of them were exhausted after days of fighting. They saw the rugs in the Cave and fell asleep on them. Suddenly, the sheikh in charge of the Cave, whose name was Jibri, came out and started shouting at the commanders and the soldiers. "Get out of this Cave! You have no respect for it! We Muslims, when we come here we wash our hands five times, take off our shoes and show respect to the place. But you show no respect whatsoever! Your soldiers are eating here, sleeping here, walking on the rugs with their dirty boots! You have no respect for this holy place - get out of here!"
Apparently he was right. Everyone was silent – apart from one.

Rabbi Eliyahu, who understood the Arab language as did most of the senior commanders, told him, "Listen to me O Sheikh! You know that if a servant comes before the king in dirty clothes, or serves him food on a dirty tray in front of all the ministers and servants of the king, he will surely be put to death.

But if thе king’s son, who for many years was not in his mother and father’s home, and his father worries about him and his mother cries for him in the night – if that son comes home after many years of wandering without making an appointment, with torn, dusty clothes, and interrupts the king’s conference with his ministers, crying, "Father, I came home!" and goes to his mother saying, "Mother, I’m here!", his mother and father will hug him with all their hearts – with his torn, dusty clothes. Because he is their son.

Now the Rabbi turned to the Sheikh and told him, "Listen, O Sheikh! Abraham was our father. Sarah was our mother. We behave here as though in our own home. But you are the "sons of Fatima," the children of the maidservant Hagar. You behave as is appropriate for a servant to behave, and we behave as is appropriate for children to behave!"

The Sheikh turned red all over with shame. Not only had his mouth been shut, he had been called "son of Fatima" – son of the maidservant. He was insulted. He turned on the spot and stormed back into his room in a great rage.
The senior commanders who were there turned right away to Rabbi Eliyahu and said to him, "Why did you do that?! We want to live in peaceful co-existence with the Arabs –why did you have to upset him?!"
But the Rabbi replied, "You have to tell them the truth. That’s the only way they understand!"
And so the argument went on for a few minutes, until the door of the Sheikh’s room suddenly opened. The sheikh came out of his room subserviently, went up to the Rabbi and said to him, "Oh Wise One! Oh Master! Please, forgive me!"
The Rabbi didn’t turn to him nor even answer him. He simply turned to the same commanders and said,
"You see what language they understand? I have grown up amongst Arabs from when I was a small child in the Old City of Jerusalem. Tell them the truth and they will understand!"
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