Chief Rabbis at Kever Yosef in December 2010
Chief Rabbis at Kever Yosef in December 2010Israel news photo: Flash 90

Many Jews have long been frustrated by Israeli restrictions on the frequency of visits to Kever Yosef, the tomb of the Biblical patriarch Joseph. Lately some hassidic “askanim” – "dealers" heavily involved in community politics – reportedly tried to circumvent the regulations by dealing directly with the Palestinian Authority.

The ‘dealers,’ members of the Breslov hassidic Shuvu Banim sect, were said to have asked the PA to send its own police force to protect Jews as they pray at the holy site.

The report horrified the parents of Ben-Yosef Livnat, a young Breslov hassidic father who was gunned down by a PA police officer when he visited Kever Yosef.

“This is terrible! The brothers sold Yosef [Joseph] and now the memory of Ben-Yosef is being sold,” they said.

“Our son gave his life for Kever Yosef, and now askanim are embracing those who dispatched his killers,” they added. “It saddens us.”

Visits to Kever Yosef are usually initiated by the Samaria Regional Council. Sources in the council dismissed the attempts by Shuvu Banim members to deal with the PA as a gimmick. “The only thing the terrorists called ‘Palestinian police’ are used to doing at Kever Yosef is desecrating it,” they said.

“It’s embarrassing that less than two years after Ben-Yosef Livnat’s murder at Kever Yosef at the hands of Palestinian police terrorists, someone is getting help from those same murderers for the sake of empty media gimmicks,” they added.

IDF sources noted that any private agreement with the PA would not be valid under Israeli laws barring Israelis from entering PA-controlled areas without authorization. They warned against relying on private agreements, and said that anyone who enters Kever Yosef without coordinating with the IDF “is endangering himself and IDF soldiers.”