Anti-Semitic graffiti at Joshua's tomb
Anti-Semitic graffiti at Joshua's tombSamarian Security Unit

Hundreds of worshippers visited the grave of biblical leader Joshua Bin-Nun near the Arab village of Kifl Hares in Samaria Wednesday night.

Upon arriving, the worshippers were shocked to see the Jewish site defaced by Swastikas and graffiti reading "death to traitors and spies", presumably referring to Arabs collaborating with Israeli security forces.

Samarian Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan called on law enforcement to track down and prosecute those responsible for the "hate crime".

"Arab rioters again desecrated the tomb of Joshua Bin-Nun, a hate crime, and a serious incident," said Dagan. "Joshua's tomb is a holy place of historic importance. It is both a holy place and a place of great importance to the Jewish people."

"I call on the security forces to put their hands on the rioters."

Kifl Hares, which has been identified as the site of the Biblical town of Timnath Hares, is near the Israeli city of Ariel in central Samaria, and is located in part in Area B, under Palestinian Authority civil administration. The remainder of the village is in Area C, under full Israeli control.

Due to the sensitive security situation, the visit was guarded by heavily armed IDF soldiers from the Kfir Brigade's Shimshon Battalion, who were augmented by reinforcements from the Artillery Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Itai Zigdon, who commands the Shimshon Battalion, took pride in his unit for arresting wanted terrorists while protecting the worshippers, saying that it proved his battalion's operational flexibility.

"Tonight the battalion dealt with three missions. Securing the worshipers, arresting wanted terrorists and the most important task, continuing to protect the residents of the area. The soldiers of the battalion and I will continue to act in order to safeguard the safety of the residents," vowed Zigdon.

The IDF arranges special visits to Joshua's Tomb every four months and works in close cooperation with the local Jewish communities in order to arrange their safety. "We will use any means available to us in order to protect the residents," said Major Dado Hacohen, a staff officer in the Ephraim Regional Brigade.

The special visits are currently the only legal way for Israelis to visit Joshua's tomb, as it is located in territory that is usually off limits. In 2016, 13 Israelis were arrested by the Palestinian Authority for praying at the grave without prior coordination with security forces.

The Jews were taken into custody by Israeli authorities and transferred to the Ariel police station, where they were questioned on suspicion of violating an army order barring the entry of Jews into Area A – the zone of full Palestinian Authority security and administrative control.