The ancient Jewish Biblical sites in Judea and Samaria continue to make headline news. Following the mass entry into Jericho and an ancient synagogue there this week, and after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu changed his mind and included the Machpelah Cave and Rachel’s Tomb on the new National Heritage Site list, it’s now the turn of Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus).
A tremendous crowd of over 1,000 people from all around Israel made their way to Joseph’s Tomb on Wednesday night, in honor of the Fast of Esther that was to begin several hours later.
Among the prominent visitors who took part in the latest army-escorted visit to the holy site were MK Danny Danon of the Likud, Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of former Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.
The common denominator within the crowd, which comprised religious, secular and traditional Jews, was the enthusiasm and great emotion felt by all as they visited the now-desecrated holy site. The Book of Joshua (24:32) describes the burial of “the bones of Joseph” in “in a parcel of land in Shechem, that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of silver.”
MK Danon expressed sharp dismay at the Arab vandalism he saw there, especially the site’s smashed dome. “It is shocking to see the barbarism of those who are supposed to be our partners in peace,” Danon said. “Israel must make sure that at least that part of the Oslo Accords stipulating Israeli control of this area and its access route is implemented.”
Council head Mesika spoke forcefully of the need for Israel to be proactive regarding Joseph’s Tomb: “No healthy nation in the world would agree to accept a situation in which a site that is so central and holy to its tradition would be so shockingly desecrated. The Government of Israel must hold its head high and return to Joseph’s Tomb totally and completely.”
Mesika acknowledged that the IDF has succeeded in making the area safe, despite its past history as a hotbed of terrorism: “If we have reached the point where Israel is helping Shechem economically, then we can also renew the Jewish presence here at Joseph’s Tomb, and add it to the National Heritage Sites list.”