THE SOUTHERN BORDERLAND. Tas
himself to Hebron, " to fulfil a vow" and offer up sacrifices at the altar of Jehovah for the
success of his revolt against his father, for then as now Hebron was next in sanctity only to
Jerusalem itself. The ancient name of Hebron was Kirjath-Arba, literally "the city of four,"
which the rabbinical commentators explain to mean the four patriarchs Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and Adam. The Bible, however, says, " And the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-
Arba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims." (Josh. xiv. 15.)
Unlike most towns in Palestine, Hebron does not stand upon a hill, but lies in the narrow
part of a valley, called Wady Khulil, the continuation of Wady et Tuffah. Some have
conjectured that the ancient city was situated on the hill north-west of the modern town :
this would agree with the Bible narrative, which makes Machpelah to have been " in a field
before Mamre—the same is Hebron." It is easy to understand how a new town might grow
up round the sacred site, while the original one would disappear. The neighbourhood is
exceedingly fertile and the valley has been supposed to be that of Eshcol from the luxuriance
with which the vines thrive there. But this site should more probably be looked for in the
mountain plateau south of Judaea, which now forms part of the Desert of the Tih, but which
must in former times have been as fertile as Palestine itself. There, although all is now arid
and bare from the failure of the water supply, there are the ruins of immense works for
irrigation, and the terraced hillsides are covered with small stone heaps in regular order, which
are still called Teleilat el 'Anab, or " grape-mounds." The grapes of Hebron are large, and
the clusters grow to an immense size. There is a tradition that it was here that Father Noah
planted the vine ; his grave is shown at Dura, the ancient Dora, a little to the west.
The town of Hebron contains four quarters : Haret esh Sheikh, " the sheikh's quarter,"
so called from the fine mosque of Sheikh 'Ali Bakka on the north-west, which dates from the
time of the Mamelukes (see page 197) ; Haret Bab ez Zawiyeh, " the quarter of the Cloister
Gate," on the west; Haret el Haram, " the quarter of the Sanctuary," on the south-east; and
Haret el Musharikeh, " the common quarter," on the south. The population is from eight
thousand to ten thousand, of whom five hundred are Jews. These are the only foreigners
permitted in the place ; they exercise no trade or industry, but subsist on the charity of their
European co-religionists, for whom they offer up prayers in return at this peculiarly holy place.*
On approaching the city, the first object which meets the eye is the square castle-like
structure of the Haram, with its towering walls of ancient and massive masonry (see steel plate).
These, as already stated, enclose the mosque which now covers the cave of Machpelah.
According to Jewish opinion, it was Solomon who first erected the mausoleum, Esther who
restored it, and the Empress Helena who rebuilt it after it had been destroyed or fallen into
decay. The walls of the Haram at Hebron are the most perfect examples of masonry of the
kind which exist in Palestine, almost surpassing even the ancient portions of the walls of
* There is an important and anciently founded glass factory on the north side of the Haram; here lamps and smooth rings of coloured
glass, worn as bracelets, are made in great numbers, and distributed all over the country. Hebron supplies the southern districts with water-
skins made of goats' hides; and there are a few primitive hand-looms in the town, where strong rough carpets are produced.—M. E