An estimated 6,000 Jews made an overnight visit to Joseph’s Tomb on Thursday, the anniversary of the Biblical character’s death.
The gathering was carried out under heavy guard by the IDF since the site is located on the outskirts of the Arab dominated city of Shechem. Dozens of Arabs rioted as the convoy of buses and military vehicles entered the city.
The area is in Samaria, a region conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and thought the city came under Palestinian Authority Jurisdiction as a result of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the religious site remained under Israeli jurisdiction to ensure access for all religions. Following multiple incidents of Palestinian violence, the IDF abandoned the site in 2000 and Jews were from prohibited from visiting the site. In 2002, the IDF retook the site and Jewish visitation was again permitted but is restricted to once each month and only under strict IDF supervision.
Though Arabs claim the site as the burial place of Sheikh Yousef Dweikat, a local religious figure, the site is the target of near-constant vandalism including incidents of arson which severely damaged the site. Two weeks ago, the managers of the site staged an overnight operation and restored the holy site in preparation for last night’s event.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), Samaria Regional Council deputy chief Davidi Ben Tzion, former Samaria Regional Council chief Gershon Mesika, IDF Colonel Gilad Amit, Lieutenant Colonel Shimon Shitrit, and the manager of Joseph’s Tomb Natanel Shanir attended the event last night.
Joseph died in Egypt but was embalmed so that his remains could be brought back for burial in Israel.
At length, Yosef said to his brothers, “I am about to die. Hashem will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov.” Genesis 50:24
The anniversary of his death is observed on the 41st day of the counting of the Omer, the 49 day period between Passover and Shavuot.