The name of the cave is literally “doubling”.
One view derives the name from the series of Biblical couples who were buried there – Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah, and because of these four couples there is the alternative name, “Kiryat Arba” – “The City of Four”.
The cave was always a place of pilgrimage with a synagogue on the site; later came a church which was destroyed by Arab conquerors who later erected a mosque.
Christian legend relates that when a Byzantine emperor sought to remove the remains of the patriarchs to Constantinople, his troops were struck blind.
Islamic legend says the same thing happened to the Crusaders.
According to Benjamin of Tudela (12th century), “The gentiles have erected six tombs there for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah”.
For long periods neither Jews nor Christians were allowed access to the cave, though there were exceptions. Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore obtained permission to enter, but they encountered a noisy protest.
Recent decades have seen the site become controversial once again.
What a tragedy that peaceful burial places can become battlefields.