The Cave of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah, is known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or Ibrahimi Mosque. Situated beneath a large rectangular Herodian era structure, the series of subterranean chambers is located in the heart of Hebron's old city in the Judean hills. The shrine is the World's most ancient Jewish site. According to the Book of Genesis, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham some 3700 years ago. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, considered the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people, are all believed to be buried there.
The only matriarch missing is Rachel, who was buried near Bethlehem where she died in childbirth. The Hebrew name possibly refers to the physical layout of the original two chambers. Jacob "digged" (Genesis 50:5) further in, to make a third chamber for Leah and himself. The Arabic name of the complex reflects the prominence given to Abraham, revered by Muslims as a Quranic prophet and patriarch through Ishmael. Outside biblical and Quranic sources there are a number of legends and traditions associated with the cave.
The rectangular stone enclosure lies on a northwest-southeast axis, and is divided into two sections by a wall running between the northwestern three fifths, and the southeastern two fifths. The northwestern section is roofed on three sides, the central area and north eastern side being open to the sky; the southeastern section is fully roofed, the roof being supported by four columns evenly distributed through the section.
The Caves :
The caves under the enclosure are not themselves generally accessible; the waqf have historically prevented access to the actual tombs out of respect for the dead. Only two entrances are known to exist, the most visible of which is located to the immediate southeast of Abraham's cenotaph on the inside of the southeastern section. This entrance is a narrow shaft covered by a decorative grate, which itself is covered by an elaborate dome. The other entrance is located to the southeast, near the mihrab, and is sealed by a large stone, and usually covered by prayer mats; this is very close to the location of the seventh step on the outside of the enclosure, beyond which the Mamelukes forbade Jews from approaching.