Thousands of Jews Visit Tombs of Joshua, Calev

Some 5,000 Jews availed themselves of the IDF's offer to safeguard the area of the Arab village of Kifel Heres and visited the holy sites.

Hillel Fendel,

at Calev's Tomb
at Calev's Tomb
Some 5,000 Jews availed themselves last night (Thursday) of the IDF's offer to safeguard the area of the Arab village of Kifel Heres so that they could visit the holy sites. The area lies immediately to the north of the city of Ariel.

Twice a year, the security forces enable Jews to visit the holy gravesites of Joshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh, who led the Israelites in their conquest of the Holy Land, and that of Joshua's father Nun. Some 5,000 visitors arrived throughout last night, experiencing the unusual sensation of walking freely through an Arab village without fear of attack. The three graves are interspersed among the village's houses; two of them are housed by dome-like structures, while Nun's grave is marked only with a large concrete mound.

Most worshipers arrived first at the grave of Calev, who led the Tribe of Judah in conquering Hevron. They then walked a few hundreds meters to the north to the burial place of Joshua, and then to the west where lies his father. Joshua and Calev were the only ones of the 12 Spies dispatched by Moses who returned with an encouraging report of the Land of Israel.

Pamphlets with special prayers were handed out to the thousands of visitors.   The prayers included mentions of the special merit of the three holy men in that they experienced the Exodus from Egypt, the receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and the conquest of the Promised Land.

The event was organized by the Shomron Local Religious Council.  "People came from far and near," said one organizer, "representing the hareidi, hassidic, religious-Zionist and traditional sectors. It was moving to see them all come together to proclaim the call of Joshua and Calev, 'Let us ascend to the Land and inherit it, for we will be able to succeed.'"

Pupils of local elementary schools were on hand to celebrate their completion of the Book of Joshua. The "Aleinu" prayer, traditionally attributed to Joshua, was recited repeatedly.

"We see that the public votes with its feet on behalf of Judaism's holy site," an organizer said, "without consideration of separation fences, inclement weather , or the late hour."

Dov Shapira, head of the local religious council, gave a deluxe edition of the Bible, accompanied by Joshua's blessing "Be strong and of great courage," to the head of the IDF Nachshon Regiment, in recognition of the army's cooperation in the complex operation.

The organizers now wish to visit Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, where the stakes are higher: Joseph is the son of the Patriarch Jacob, and prayers at his burial site carry special merit - while on the other hand, Shechem is more dangerous for Jews than the little village Kifel Hares.