Hundreds of people gathered on Thursday for a special ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of Israel’s pullout from Joseph’s Tomb. The ceremony was held in the Samaria community of Mitzpe Yosef, which is located on Har (Mount)  Gerizim near Shechem (Nablus)  and overlooks Joseph’s Tomb. Har Gerizim and Har Eival are the mountains near Shechem named in the Pentateuch as the place where the Priests and Levites addressed the tribes entering Israel after their sojourn in the desert, blessing them at Mount Gerizim if they kept G-d's commandments and elucidating the punishments they would receive at Mount Eival  if they did not..

During the ceremony, it was announced that the coming year will be known as the year of Joseph’s Tomb, and will include educational and public activities as well as many other special events.

The ceremony centered around the writing of a Sefer Torah, which the organizers believe will be placed into Joseph’s Tomb once Israel has permanent borders and “takes back the stolen property stolen by the Palestinian Authority to its rightful owners, the people of Israel,” as the organizers said. Each of the evening’s speakers began by writing a letter in the Sefer Torah.

Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, was the first speaker. He said that learning history in the Jewish tradition means learning lessons and drawing conclusions, and that Joseph’s character should serve as an example to Jews in the present generation. “We have a state, army, ability and power,” said Rabbi Lior. “After we returned to our country we have a commandment to reclaim the land and settle it. Handing over of territories is a sin and we have paid a price for it, as we have seen in recent years. Even thinking about it is bad. Terrorists act against the very existence of Israel. We need to strengthen ourselves as the righteous Joseph did.”

Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Danny Danon told participants about his recent visit to the area with his son two months ago. “My son asked me why we cannot go down to Joseph's Tomb, and I did not know what to say… I believe that with G-d's help we will this year return to Joseph's Tomb and to other places from which we’ve been uprooted.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included Gershon Meskia (head of the Samaria Regional Council), Rabbi Elyakim Levanon (the rabbi of Elon Moreh), and MK Uri Ariel of the National Union Party who read the names of the IDF soldiers who fell while guarding Joseph’s Tomb. Ariel emphasized that those soldiers must be remembered so that the return to Joseph’s Tomb can be accomplished.

The ceremony was initiated by Gar’in Shechem, a group of residents of Judea and Samaria who seek to re-establish a Jewish presence in Joseph’s Tomb. It was organized by the Shomron Regional Council, the Shomron Religious Council, the Samaria Residents Council, the Shechem Echad organization, and Matnas Shomron.

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