Rabbi Yosef Sitruck at Joseph's Tomb
Rabbi Yosef Sitruck at Joseph's TombShomron Regional Council

More than 1,000 people from all over Israel took part on Monday in special prayers for Sukkot at Joseph’s Tomb. During Sukkot, the ushpizin prayer is recited, symbolizing the welcoming of seven special guests into the sukkah, one for each day of the holiday: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. The prayers at Joseph’s Tomb took place on the day of Sukkot on which according to tradition, Joseph visits the sukkah.

This was the first massive gathering at the site of the tomb, which was restored in a complex night-long operation, which began on Saturday night and ended on Sunday morning. Ten years ago, the tomb was destroyed and defiled by an Arab mob. During the restoration operation, a five-ton stone slab was lowered into the ancient tomb structure in the exact location where the original stone lay, before it was smashed and burned by the Arab pillagers in September 2000.

Attendees of the special gathering on Monday expressed their great excitement over the restored tomb. Taking part in the ceremony were prominent rabbis, including former French Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Sitruck. Also participating were MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Shomron Regional Council Mayor Gershon Mesika, Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan, and Rabbi Nir Rosenberg of the community of Einav. Soldiers who took part in the ceremony read from the book of Tehilim (Psalms), many of them with tears of excitement in their eyes.

Mesika thanked the IDF for ensuring the security of participants, and also thanked the IDF's Samaria Brigade and Civil Administration for their cooperation and assistance in the restoration efforts.

“This is a symbolic closure, an exciting historic moment, a tiny repair in the shame of the abandonment of Joseph’s Tomb,” said Mesika. “We thank the officers and soldiers for their partnership in the progressive renovation of the tomb. However, the joy is not complete at all and it is mixed with sadness about the 10 year-old disgrace, when then Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered to abandon Joseph's Tomb.”

He noted that “No nation in the world would allow a sacred place, so symbolic to its people to be so disgraced as Joseph's Tomb. I urge the Israeli government to make amends and allow the Jewish stay at Joseph's Tomb, which was anchored even in the Oslo Accords, in which it was determined that Joseph's Tomb will remain under full Israeli control.”

MK Hotovely remarked following her visit to the site: “It is shocking that such a holy place as Joseph's Tomb has not yet returned to a state of permanent Jewish presence there. Joseph's Tomb should be conducted as Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are conducted, and Jews should be allowed to pray there regularly.”

Right before Yom Kippur, hundreds of people gathered in the Samaria community of Mitzpe Yosef, which overlooks Joseph’s Tomb, for a special ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of Israel’s pullout from the site. 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.