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      Campaign Aims to Add Joseph's Tomb as Heritage Site

      Praise for Netanyahu's decision to add Tomb of the Patriarchs to Heritage list is followed by requests that Joseph's Tomb be added as well.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 2/21/2010, 6:20 PM / Last Update: 2/21/2010, 7:17 PM

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu won praise from nationalist groups Sunday with the announcement that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem would be added to a list of national heritage sites. However, many activists said the list remains incomplete without the inclusion of Joseph's Tomb in Shechem.

      Speaking from Hevron, MK Zev Elkin of the Knesset Lobby for the Land of Israel said, “We praise the government's decision to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs... Whoever thought there could be a national heritage sites project that did not include the Tomb of the Patriarchs did not know what he was talking about.”

      Elkin toured the Tomb of the Patriarchs together with several other MKs. Speaking to Arutz Sheva, the MKs tied the preservation of historic sites in Judea and Samaria to the Jewish people's right to modern-day Israel. "Without the Tomb of the Patriarchs, without the land of Israel described in the Bible, we wouldn't have Tel Chai,” said MK Aryeh Eldad. MK Avraham Michaeli added, “This place is not only our history; it's also the source from which we draw the power to settle the land of Israel.”

      The Lobby will request the inclusion of addition sites in Judea and Samaria to the list, Elkin added. “We will continue the struggle... The Binyamin region and Samaria look empty on the map of official heritage sites. We don't think that's right.” Among those sites that the lobby will promote is Joseph's Tomb, he said.

      Elkin was backed by activists from the Mattot Arim organization. “MK Zev Elkin is correct in saying that Joseph's Tomb should be included on the list of national heritage sites,” activists said in a statement released Sunday. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised that Joseph's Tomb would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and the site was promised to Israel under the Oslo Accords, the group argued.

      Activists in the Garin Shechem organization are fighting for Joseph's Tomb as well. The group has gathered 1,000 signatures on a petition criticizing the government's neglect of Joseph's Tomb and asking that the site be included in the list of national heritage sites.

      Garin Shechem activists have announced plans to begin repairs to the tomb in the upcoming weeks with or without government support.

      While nationalists praised Netanyahu, MK Chaim Oron of the left-wing Meretz party criticized the Prime Minister's choice. “This is yet another attempt to blur the border between Israel and the occupied territories,” he said.