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Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank, located in the south, 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. It is home to some 166,000 Palestinians,[1] and over 500 Jewish settlers.[2][3][4][5] Hebron lies 930 meters (3,050 ft) above sea level. Located in the Biblical region of Judea, it is the second holiest city in Judaism, after Jerusalem.[6]

The name "Hebron" traces back to two West Semitic roots, which coalesce in the form ḥbr, having reflexes in Hebrew, Amorite and Arabic, and denoting a range of meanings from 'colleague', 'unite', 'friend' or 'to be noisy'. In the proper name Hebron, the sense may be alliance [7]. In Arabic, "Ibrahim al-Khalil" means "Abraham the friend", signifying that, according to Islamic teaching, God chose Abraham as his friend.[8]

It is locally well-known for its grapes, figs, limestone, pottery workshops and glassblowing factories. It is also the location of the major dairy product manufacturer, al-Junaidi. The old city of Hebron is characterized by narrow, winding streets, flat-roofed stone houses, and old bazaars. It is home to Hebron University and the Palestine Polytechnic University.

The most famous historic site in Hebron sits on the Cave of the Patriarchs. Although the site is holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam also accept it as a sacred site, due to scriptural references to Abraham. According to Genesis, he purchased the cave and the field surrounding it from Ephron the Hittite to bury his wife Sarah, subsequently Abraham Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah were also buried in the cave (the remaining Matriarch, Rachel, is buried outside Bethlehem). For this reason, Hebron is also referred to as "the City of the Patriarchs" in Judaism, and regarded as one of its Four Holy Citiesreference required. Over and around the cave itself churches, synagogues and mosques have been built throughout history (see "History" below). The Isaac Hall is now the Ibrahimi Mosque, while the Abraham Hall and Jacob Hall serve as a Jewish synagogue. In medieval Christian tradition, Hebron was one of the three cities, the other two being Juttah and Ain Karim, that boasted of being the home of Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and wife of Zacharias, and thus possibly the birthplace of the Baptist himself.[9][10][11]

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  1. Projected Mid -Year Population for Hebron Governorate by Locality 2004- 2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
  2. Palestinian security forces deploy in Hebron 25/10/2008 gives about 500 as of October 2008
  3. Deborah Campbell, This Heated Place: Encounters in the Promised Land, Douglas & McIntyre, 2004 p.63; James L. Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War,Cambridge University Press, 2005 p.190; Jerry Levin West Bank Diary: Middle East Violence as Reported by a Former American Hostage, Hope Publishing House, 2005 p.26;Antony Loewenstein,My Israel Question: Reframing the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Melbourne University Publishing, 2006, p.47; Robin Wright,Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East,Penguin Group, 2008 p.38
  4. For the figure of 700 settlers see Jennifer Medina, "'Settlers’ Defiance Reflects Postwar Israeli Changes", The New York Times, April 22, 2007.
  5. For the figure of 800 settlers, see Yaakov Katz, Tovah Lazaroff, "Hebron settlers try to buy more homes", The Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2007.
  6. Hebron. Virtual Israel Experience. Jewish Virtual Library.
  7. cf.Amorite ḥibrum. In general see. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans 1974,ISBN 0802823297 pp.193ff. The root has magical overtones, and develops pejorative connotations in late Biblical usage
  8. Surah 4 Ayara (verse) 125, Qur'an (source text)
  9. Marcello Craveri, The Life of Jesus: An assessment through modern historical evidence, 1967, p.25.
  10. A minor tradition suggests that Zachiarah himself, as a priest, perhaps hailed from Hebron, which was a Levitical city. See Henry Hart Milman, The History of Christianity from the Birth of Christ to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire,Baudry's European Library, 1840, Vol.1, p.49 and note 2.
  11. Ernest Renan, The Life of Jesus, Trübner, 1864 p.93. Renan remarks of the town that it is 'one of the bulwarks of Semitic ideas, in their most austere form’