Elevator to Be Inaugurated Next Week at Me’aras Hamachpelah

Mispallelim at Me’aras Hamachpelah, in Chevron. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

After 30 years of legal and political battles, Israel will inaugurate an elevator to improve handicap accessibility at Me’aras Hamachpelah next Thursday, June 8. Invitations were sent by the Ministry of Defense’s Civil Administration on Wednesday.

Besides it being a makom kadosh, Me’aras Hamachpelah is also one of Israel’s most visited tourist sites.

The $1.6 million project includes a sloped path linking the parking area to the kever, an elevator and an enclosed footbridge connecting the elevator to the entrance of the site.

Until now, visitors had to go up “around 30 steps” between the street and the entrance to the kever.

Efforts to build the elevator were mired in legal petitions filed by Palestinians, who claimed that the elevator damaged the site’s archaeological and architectural significance, and that Israel illegally expropriated land for the initiative. A High Court ruling in 2021 cleared away the last legal hurdles.

For security reasons, the kever was divided into Jewish and Muslim areas. A rotation system allows Jews and Muslims to occasionally visit each other’s side.

The current structure around the kever was built 2,000 years ago by King Herod the Great. During the Mamluke conquest, the site was converted into a mosque and Jews were banned from going past the seventh step of a staircase outside the building.

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