Garo Nalbandian

Graceful vaults overarch a Crusader church, now part of the mosque at Machpelah, the traditional site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron, The red- and white-striped marble cenotaphs of Isaac, right, and his wife Rebecca, left, stand like sentinels before the mihrab, center, back, the niche in the southeastern wall of the mosque, the wall closest to Mecca. Marble panels frame the niche. To the right rises the pulpit, or minbar, imported in 1187, legend claims, from the mosque at Ashkelon by the Moslem conqueror Saladin. Exquisitely carved, the wood pulpit in the Machpelah is often compared to the pulpit in the El Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. To the right of the pulpit, in an area out of sight behind the cenotaph of Isaac, is the access (marked “B” on the plan), now blocked, that was used in the 12th century to explore the caves below.