At least 10,000 people hiked from all over Israel to visit and pray at the tomb of Joshua son of Nun to commemorate the Biblical warrior’s death.
The closest disciple of Moses, Joshua never wavered from his master’s side throughout the Israelites’ 40-year journey in the desert. After Moses died (Deuteronomy 34:7), Joshua was annointed as his successor, guiding the people as they crossed over the Jordan river into the Land of Israel. After years of waging war against the nations that were living there, Joshua led his troops to victory, ultimately conquering the land as God had instructed.
Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land which I swore unto their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest have good success whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:6-7)
To this day, Joshua is hailed as one of the greatest commanders in Biblical history.
His death is commemorated on the 26th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which occurred this year on Tuesday night. Hence the midnight visit this week, marking the tenth annual event of the journey.
Joshua was buried in biblical Timnath-heres, in the center of today’s Palestinian village of Kifl Haris, a short drive from the Israeli city of Ariel in the heart of Samaria. Like so many other Palestinian areas in Israel, however, Kifl Haris is not safe for Jews to pass through without heavy security. Therefore, the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews who made the trek did so under the watchful eye of many IDF soldiers.
The Samaria Regional Council, in coordination with the IDF, organizes three trips each year so that Jews can worship at the Biblical tombs. In order to minimize any risks to Israeli civilians’ security, the IDF shuts down a section of the village in the middle of the night, when the amount of people who might pose a threat is greatly reduced.
Desecrated by Palestinian graffiti, Joshua’s grave lies under a small stone-and-stucco mausoleum, covered by a dome. To emphasize the stark contrast between ancient and modern, the monument sits on the edge of an open square, surrounded by apartment buildings and shops.
Once they reached the historical gravesite, the thousands of worshippers rejoiced upon arriving. Some visitors brought musical instruments with them, playing guitars and drums, while others danced and sang along. Nearly everyone took an opportunity to squeeze into the small building and offer up prayers by reciting from Psalms or personal supplications. A few people even climbed to the top of the roof to maximize their prayer potential.
The strength shown by Joshua in conquering the Land of Israel was especially felt Tuesday night. Knesset Member Oren Hazan compared the great general’s mission to that of the Israeli people today, whose efforts to build up the Land of Israel never end. “We have to continue with this mission to redeem the land, so that we can finally be a free people in our land,” he said.
Buried in close proximity to Joshua is fellow conqueror Caleb son of Yefuna, who was Joshua’s right-hand man in the conquest of Israel.
Echoing Hazan’s sentiments, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan shared, “We have come here precisely because Joshua Bin Nun and Caleb Ben Yefuna had the strength to stand against the 10 other spies and to say the land is good, let us rise up and inherit it.”
“We draw strength from Joshua and from the thousands who came here,” he said.