Daily Israel Report

IDF: Visits to Joseph's Tomb On the Rise

The military releases its official take on Joseph's Tomb after the murder Sunday.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/27/2011, 4:49 PM / Last Update: 4/27/2011, 6:14 PM

Arutz Sheva

Perhaps sensing that its initial terse statements in the wake of the murder of Ben Yosef Livnat Sunday were unsatisfactory, the IDF has released a detailed statement on its policy at the Tomb of Joseph.

"Coordinated visits to Joseph's Tomb, an enclave of Jewish prayer in the heart of the Palestinian city of Shechem, take place once a month on average," a text on the IDF's website said. "In a coordinated manner, legally, and with balanced consideration toward the Palestinians on one hand and the worshipers on the other, between 12 and 16 bulletproof buses are brought to the Tomb compound."
 
Last weekend, after the grave incident in which Ben Yosef Livnat of Blessed Memory was killed and three Israelis were wounded, the Commander of Judea and Samaria Division, Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, said that on occasion, "coordinated and secured entries of worshipers into the Tomb of Joseph take place - and they shall continue. I call on Israelis to come to the Tomb of Joseph with the coordinated entries and not independently, because the dangers are clear."
 
The year 2011, the first in which Col. Nimrod Aloni has been in charge of Samaria Brigade, has brought a conscious increase in the number of entrants. [According to the Brigade,] "The dates of entry are now preset in an annual program. We try to make the dates overlap with observances of Rosh Chodesh, holidays, and as close as possible to special dates."
 
"We do the best we can to meet the worshipers' needs, within the framework of what is logical and possible," the Brigade said. "At the same time, we always take account of events on the ground. At the end of the day, when events are scheduled in January, not only are we unable to foresee what will happen in December - we also do not know what the situation will be this April."
 
"If, therefore, a visit is canceled on a certain month, we set two visits for the month that follows. We maintain an average [of one visit per month]. Each such visit numbers hundreds or thousands of worshipers, who enter in three or four cycles to avoid overcrowding. Each cycle lasts 45 minutes to one hour, with the IDF providing full and thorough security."
 
The worshipers come from all over Israel, from the nearby communities as well as from outside Judea and Samaria. They are organized by the One Shechem group and brought to the city in safety and with IDF coordination. "A person who asks to go in will never be told that he can't," sources in the Brigade said. "We do not exclude anyone. In every group that enters we see the elderly along with children... women, men, hareidi-religious Jews, religious Jews, even secular people. We never refuse them."   
 
After the shooting murder and shootings, the routine continues as usual. "There is no reason to change the procedures. There have always been uncoordinated entries and we have always encouraged only coordinated ones... The number of official entries was enlarged last year, on purpose. The decision was reached because we understood that there is demand."