Prayers at Yehoshua's Tomb
Prayers at Yehoshua's TombYoni Kempinski

More than a thousand Jewish worshippers from all over Israel who went up on Thursday to Joshua’s Tomb in the Samaria village of Timnat Heres were shocked to find that Arabs had vandalized the area with Arabic graffiti.

This was not the first time that Arabs have vandalized the compound, but this time was particularly difficult, as entire walls in the compound were covered with the graffiti. The worshippers were also surprised to discover that this year, unlike in previous years, dozens of local Arabs gathered at the graveside and firmly demanded that the security forces who were present stop the dancing of some youths who broke into song and dance. The officers approached the youths and asked that they refrain from dancing and singing, but they refused and continued to dance for several minutes.

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Authority who was unable to hide his shock at the graffiti, said: “Only barbarians can do such terrible things. People who are able to deface a holy place so badly do not deserve to be called civilized. If this was Jews desecrating a Muslim shrine, the whole world would speak out against it.”

The mass prayer at Joshua’s Tomb took place in honor of Asara B’Tevet, the fast of the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tevet, which occurs today. The worshippers prayed at Joshua’s Tomb as well as at the gravesites of his father Nun and of Calev ben Yefuneh which are nearby.

The thousands of worshippers included men and women of all ages and all walks of life: secular, traditional, religious, Hareidi, and even tourists who came to Israel especially for the occasion. Also taking part were heads of yeshivas and rabbis from all parts of Israel.

The event was organized by the Shomron Regional Authority, the Shechem Echad organization, and the Shomron Religious Council. The worshippers were secured by soldiers belonging to the Ephraim Brigade.

The tradition of visiting the graves of the righteous has been maintained since the days of the Bible, where it is written that Joshua was buried in Timnat Heres, to the present day. Once in a while the IDF allows Israeli citizens to enter Joshua’s Tomb for prayer purposes.

Yehuda Libman of Shechem Echad, thanked the IDF and Israeli Police for their assistance and for providing security, and explained the reason that the mass worship takes place on the tenth of Tevet: “The Tenth of Tevet is the general day of Kaddish, a day on which we pray for all those souls whose dates of death are unknown. This day is also a special day on which we visit the grave of Calev.”

Mesika added that it is “heartwarming to see secular, religious and Hareidi Jews going up to Joshua’s Tomb and connecting with the person who was Israel’s first Chief of Staff. During these days of pressure both within Israel and without, we are strengthened by Joshua, who had the courage to stand up and declare in front of the twelve spies: 'we will go up and inherit the land because we can.’ We all hope that the government will also maintain the legacy of Joshua. We are strong, we just need the leadership not to break.”