A team of Jewish workers accompanied by the IDF spruced-up two nights ago the tomb of the Biblical Joseph in Shechem. The restoration was performed by the Shechem Echad organization, which is responsible for restoring historic Jewish graves throughout Samaria.
(Filmed by Hillel Maeir, "Tatzpit")
Can't see the video? Click here to see how the Tomb of Joseph was refurbished.
The campaign to restore Joseph's Tomb, spearheaded by Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, began last Chanukah, immediately after Mesika began his tenure. Mesika and his strategic advisory board visited the holy site and held a special prayer meeting thanking G-d for the opportunity to lead the Jewish communities in Samaria. Mesika stated at the event that he would use all of his influence to restore the Tomb of Joseph and to reestablish the yeshiva that thrived there until the site was overrun by Arab mobs and burnt down nine years ago.
After his election, Mesika set in motion monthly visits to the site for thousands of worshipers from around the country and around the world. The Shomron Regional Council has been in continual contact with the IDF and even lobbied the Knesset in order to allow at least partial access to the throngs of Jewish worshippers.
At present, the IDF usually allows access to Joseph’s Tomb once a month, but limits the number to 1,000 people. Due to the security situation, the IDF only gives limited advanced notice when Joseph’s Tomb is officially open to Jews. Due to a large waiting list, the Shomron Community Council also does not publicize extensively the dates when access to the tomb is authorized. In addition, many of the coveted spots are reserved for public officials and other VIPs from abroad.
On Wednesday night, among the hundreds of worshippers who came to Joseph’s Tomb was Rabbanit Dorit Kadouri, the widow of Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kadouri. Over ten busloads of worshippers throughout Israel visited the tomb on the fourth night of Chanukah. That night was the first time worshippers saw the tomb's renovations. Jewish workers funded by anonymous donors painted the blackened walls of the defaced religious landmark and built a new stone covering for the grave of Joseph, which was smashed by Arabs in an act of hatred for the Jewish religion and heritage. Local leaders hope that this will be a first stage towards the goal of completely rebuilding the site and the yeshiva.
Workers replacing Joseph's tombstone, which was defaced by Arabs 9 years ago.
Testing the Waters While Tracing the Footprints
The IDF is currently testing the Arabs’ response in Shechem to the renovations. Although a relative calm permeated the tense Shechem atmosphere, soldiers found fresh footprints in the recently poured cement. The Jewish organizers hope that the incident is isolated and that the Arabs’ tacit acceptance will allow the IDF to ensure access to the tomb more frequently.
Shomron Community Council liaison David Ha’ivri stated, "Jews who are willing to consider giving Jewish holy sites over to Arab administration must be made aware of the disgraceful events that led to the desecration of a Biblical burial place of an important father of our nation. For two thousand years the site was untouched and within hours the Arabs burned it to the ground.”