Hebron is located 32km, south of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills, and sits between 870 and 1020 meters above sea level. The city is built on several hills and wadis. Hebron’s monthly average temperatures are lower than those of Jerusalem.
Hebron is one of the four cities holy to the Jews. It is the second-holiest site to Jerusalem; the other cities are Tiberias and Zefat. Some 3600 years ago Hebron was a Canaanite town Kiryat Arba (Joshua 14:15). The name “Kiryat Arba” (literally “village of the four”) is a prophetic illusion to the four couples that would be buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah.
At about this time Abraham and Sarah pitched their tent by the oaks at Mamre. When Sarah died in Hebron Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite a field and a cave at Mamre, Cave of Machpela where he buried his wife Sarah. “I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him… the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver… and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver”… (Gen 23:13-16).
The hebrew word Hebron is related to the hebrew word for “connection” – : “hibur” – alluding to the fact that the patriarchs and matriarchs are joined together in the same burial site. Others explain that the word is from the hebrew word for “friend” (“haver”), a description for the patriarch Abraham, who was considered a friend of God. The arabic “Al-Khalil” – literally “The Abraham friend”.
King David established Hebron as his first capital city; there king David “reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty three years over Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 5:5). In Hebron his son Absalom raised the standard of rebellion (2 Sam.5 and 15). Hoham, the king of Hebron, was slain by Joshua at the battle of Ayalon during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 10:3).
The Hasmonean, John Hyrcanus, took the city at the end of the second century BC. During the first jewish revolt against the romans the jews captured it, only to lose it later when the romans burned it down.
The Byzantines erected a church over the cave of the patriarchs. It became a district capital under the mamlukes. In 1266 it was decreed that the jews were not to enter the Cave of Machpela, and this decree was strictly enforced until the 20th century. Jews were not allowed past the seventh step on a staircase outside the building.
In 1929 the jewish community of Hebron was literally decimated in a few hours in a pogrom.