Some 2,000 Israelis of all backgrounds – religious, secular, and Hareidi - held prayers overnight Wednesday at the Tomb of Joseph (Kever Yosef) in Shechem. The special visit was arranged with the IDF, and soldiers accompanying the group participated in prayers as well.
Leading the group was Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon (rav of the Samaria region), Samaria Council director Gershon Mesika, and chairman of the Samaria Residents Council Benny Katsover.
Accompanying the group were some 50 reporters, both Israeli and foreign, mostly from France. The reporters heard a detailed presentation about the Tomb and about the return of Jews to Samaria by Katsover, one of the pioneers of Jewish settlement in the region. Among the guests were members of the Livnat family of Elon Moreh. Last year, Ben Yosef Livnat was killed near the Tomb.
Edelstein also spoke, unable to hide his emotion at the scene of thousands of Jews praying at the site. He called on the government to allow Jews to freely visit the site and to set up a permanent presence there. “Experience shows that holy sites that are under Israeli control have free access and are safe for all – unlike the Palestinian Authority, which prevents Jews from entering holy site, and even burns them down, as has occurred several times at Kever Yosef. I believe we need to return to total control of the site, and many in the government believe so as well,” Edelstein said.
The Tomb, which was destroyed and desecrated 11 years ago, was restored last year after painstaking and dangerous work by the Samaria Regional Council, the Shechem Echad organization, the IDF, and the Civil Authority.
Mesika thanked the security forces for ensuring the safety of visitors. “Kever Yosef, the Temple Mount, and the Machpelah cave are the basis of all of the Land of Israel, where the Jewish people derive their strength from,” he said. “Unfortunately, we remember how the 'PA police,' the terrorists in uniform, desecrated this site. We, along with the IDF, have merited to reclaim the site in recent years, and we call on the government to act upon something that is even written in the Oslo Accords – imposing Israeli control on the Tomb of Joseph, which is so holy to the Jewish people.”