An estimated 6,000 Jews visited the Tomb of Joseph adjacent to the Biblical city of Shechem (Nablus) on Monday night, accompanied by a strong IDF contingent. Worshippers arrived in a convoy of heavily guarded armored buses, risking the danger to petition the tzaddik (holy man) buried there. The security precautions proved justified when a Palestinian attempted to ram his car into the crowd.
Jews are only permitted to visit the burial site of the Biblical patriarch occasionally, and only under close IDF guard. These visits are scheduled to take place in the middle of the night and only for two hours at a time to minimize security concerns. Nonetheless, last night’s crowd was reported to be the largest in more than a year. In addition, several VIP’s were present including Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), Samaria Regional Council deputy chief Davidi Ben Tzion, IDF Colonel Gilad Amit, Lt.- Col. Shimon Shitrit, the manager of Joseph’s Tomb Natanel Shanir, and Minister of Construction Yoav Galant (Kulanu).
“We are blessed with the merit of protecting one of the most important sites in Jewish history,” said Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan to the media. This massive pilgrimage, with thousands of visitors coming from all over the country and the world, is further proof that against all the odds, the Jewish people hasn’t forgotten its holy places.”
“This, despite thousands of years of exile and attempts both at home and abroad to take us from our heritage. We will continue to take care of and protect and bring tens of thousands of visitors to Joseph’s Tomb and to other sites of historical importance to the Jewish people.”
Minister Uri Ariel said the group came to Joseph’s Tomb “to pray for the Jewish people and our security. We will continue to pray at Joseph’s Tomb, and will demand that we be allowed to return here to learn and pray in the daytime as well.”
Crowds of Palestinians rioted as the convoy of armored buses arrived. Rocks and fire-bombs were thrown at the IDF troops who responded with crowd control measures, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. One Palestinian youth was moderately wounded in the clash. IDF troops fired at a Palestinian vehicle that accelerated toward them. The buses were pummeled with stones as they exited the compound.
Joshua Wander, an independent public relations consultant and a Mount of Olives resident, made the journey last night to the holy site for nationalistic reasons.
“Of course, many people go to pray. But for me it is much more simple. This is a statement that there are Jews here, as long as we visibly and unequivocally show that we are here and have not relinquished our right to this part of Israel,” Wander told Breaking Israel News.
Wander noted that the usurping of Jewish holy sites is a blatant Muslim provocation.
“Almost every Jewish holy site has a mosque on it,” Wander said. “And then they claim it is theirs and forbid us from going. According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority agreed to allow Jews access the Joseph’s tomb. Instead, they prefer to burn it down rather than allow us to pray.”
Joseph’s Tomb is a point of particularly hot contention between Israel and the Palestinians; located in Samaria, a region conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although the city came under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction as a result of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the religious site remained under Israeli control to ensure access for all religions.
Following multiple incidents of Palestinian violence, the IDF abandoned the site in 2000 and Jews were prohibited from visiting it. Since 2002, Jewish worshipers have only been permitted to visit the site once each month, and only under strict IDF supervision. In 2011, a young Jewish man was shot and killed by a Palestinian policeman when he attempted to visit the site without prior IDF permission.
“This clearly shows that under the PA, there will be no religious freedom. As it is, Christians and Jews are not permitted free access or prayer on the Temple Mount.”
“Everything is being done to prevent Jews from going,” Wander said. “It is difficult to stay up all night, to access the travel arrangements, and the schedule is very limited. The buses were packed, with many people sitting in the aisle.”
The Talmud stated that there are three places in the land of Israel that the Bible specifically describes as being purchased by the Jews: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Shechem (Nablus) and as such, non-Jews can never claim they were stolen.
Jews believe that, as written explicitly in the Bible, Joseph died in Egypt but the Children of Israel brought his bones to Israel to be buried in Shechem.
The bones of Yosef, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Yaakov had bought for a hundred kesita from the children of Hamor, Shechem‘s father, and which had become a heritage of the Josephites. Joshua 24:32
Islam respects Biblical Joseph and he is written about extensively in the Koran. Nonetheless, Islam believes that Joseph was buried in Hebron. Arabs claim the site in Shechem is 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.
In Jewish mysticism, Joseph represents sexual purity as demonstrated by his restraint with the wife of Potiphar. The Biblical character of Shechem represents precisely the opposite, epitomized by his raping Jacob’s daughter, Dina.
The burial site stands between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The Bible describes how the Children of Israel stood between the two mountains, receiving instructions about the potential blessings they could receive from Mount Gerizim (holy to this day to Samaritan Jews) and the curses from Mount Ebal.
When Hashem your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and possess, you shall pronounce the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at HarEival. Deuteronomy 11:29