Knesset Members Demand IDF Reopen Joseph's Tomb

35 Knesset members from various political factions are calling on the IDF to renew civilian access to the tomb of the Biblical Joseph in Shechem.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

35 Knesset members from various political factions are calling on the IDF to renew civilian access to the tomb of the Biblical Joseph in Shechem. The site, at which Jews have gathered for prayer over the generations, has been closed to visitors for the past three years due to the dangers posed by Arab terrorists in the region.

In a letter to IDF Central Command Officer Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, the parliamentarians requested that the military authorities reopen Joseph's Tomb to Jewish visitors, taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure secure access.

The letter, initiated by National Union MK Uri Ariel, was signed by legislators from the United Torah Judaism, Shas, Likud, Kadima, Pensioners and Yisrael Beiteinu parties. All the MKs of the National Union-National Religious Party signed the letter, as did MK Moshe Sharoni, chairman of the Pensioners party, most of the Likud MKs, including presidential candidate MK Reuven Rivlin, and United Torah Judaism MKs, and five out of the twelve MKs from Shas.

MK Ariel emphasized that even the Oslo Accords, which turned over civilian and military control of Shechem (Nablus) to the Palestinian Authority, recognized that Joseph's Tomb is a sanctified site for Jews. The agreements included clauses guaranteeing freedom of access and freedom of worship at the tomb. Ariel initiated the letter to Naveh at this time due to the changing of the military command in the Shechem region, which opened the door to a reevaluation of existing policy.
The tomb was first abandoned by IDF forces in 2000 when it came under intense attack by PA militiamen and police at the start of what became known as the Oslo War.

The tomb was first abandoned by IDF forces in 2000, at the order of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, when it came under intense attack by PA militiamen and police at the start of what became known as the Oslo War. IDF soldier Madhat Yusuf was killed during the PA siege on the compound, slowly bleeding to death while Israeli generals refused to give the order to storm the compound.  Upon the Israeli withdrawal, Arabs swarmed the building, destroying or pilfering whatever was to be found there.

In the major counter-terrorist military operation dubbed Defensive Shield, in May 2002, IDF forces returned to Shechem and to Joseph's Tomb. The military then organized monthly trips to the tomb, secured by IDF forces. The visits, which were arranged for midnight, regularly drew about 800 people.

The threat of Arab terrorist attacks on Jewish pilgrims to the tomb in the past three years, however, led the local IDF commander to suspend the visits.





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