“The swastika is a vile symbol of racist, murderous ideology, and it is clear that drawing this symbol anywhere in the world is a vile deed – especially in a Jewish religious holy place,” Gush Shalom spokesperson Adam Keller said.
“Joseph’s Tomb in the heart of the city of Shechem is a holy place for Judaism and the desire of religious Jews to visit it is perfectly legitimate,” he added.
Keller added, however, “Because the biblical Joseph is considered one of the prophets of Islam and the Koran speaks about him with dignity and respect, obviously the grave is also a holy place for the religion of Islam. Politically, the city of Shechem is a Palestinian city and is an important and substantial part of Palestine which is going to get formal international recognition by the UN General Assembly.”
“It should be clear that the dark period when Joseph’s Tomb was an armed Israeli enclave in the heart of Palestinian Shechem and was the focus of constant tension and much bloodshed is over,” he said, adding that “groups of settlers who are dreaming to go back to this situation will not get their provocative wish.”
According to Keller, “A Jew who wishes to come to the tomb in Shechem on a religious pilgrimage needs to know that he’s a guest of the Palestinians in their city, and subject to the supervision and guidelines of the Palestinian Security Forces - just like a Muslim who comes to a sacred religious place in Israel is a guest of the State of Israel and subject to the authority of the Israel Police.”
“For their part,” said Keller, “the Palestinian authorities are obligated to keep Joseph’s Tomb open to all believers, Jews and Muslims alike, and prevent any damage to it such as the spray-painting of swastikas last night.”
The desecration of the site of the tomb was discovered late Wednesday night, when over 2,000 Jews entered the compound for Selichot (pre-Yom Kippur penitential prayers). The prayer service was organized by the Samaria Regional Council and the Shechem Echad organization, which advocates a Jewish return to the city, in coordination with the IDF. The first wave of visitors saw the vandalism and alerted group leaders to the situation. Those inside the building quickly began painting over the offending symbols and comments with whitewash, while hundreds of worshippers continued to descend on the site.
On Thursday, the Binyamin Rabbis' Council published a statement expressing shock over the defilement. The statement pointed out the difference between the government's shocked reaction to the arson at a mosque in the Arab village of Tuba Zangriya in the Galilee, and the non-reaction to the desecration of one of the most holy Jewish sites.
"We call upon the Chief Rabbis of Israel, the president, the prime minister and the government ministers to carry out a public visit at the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem today – in order to express their protest, and the sovereignty of Israel over the place where our forefathers are buried."
The president and the Chief Rabbis were quick to visit the mosque in Tuba Zangriya that was set on fire and expressed shock over the incident, as did the prime minister and many other politicians.