Dozens of Palestinian Authority Arabs rioted at Joseph’s Tomb (Kever Yosef) late Tuesday night and set it on fire, one week after PA police murdered Ben Yosef Livnat after he prayed at the Jewish holy site.
Local Arabs “celebrated” the murder by setting fires at the cave, the traditional burial place of the Biblical Joseph. PA Muslims have desecrated Kever Yosef several times in the past, even burning a Torah scroll. Two years ago, worshippers discovered freshly painted graffiti of swastikas a day after Holocaust Memorial Day, along with boot prints of Palestinian Authority police.
The IDF did not intervene in the latest desecration. Palestinian Authority policemen eventually arrived to extinguish the fire and disperse the rioters.
Several political leaders from different parties, including former National Security Adviser Uzi Dayan have called for returning the control of Kever Yosef to the IDF and allowing routine prayer visits by Jews.
The defunct Oslo Accords provided for open access to Jews to the site and for the presence of the IDF. The government eventually pulled its forces out of the area, after a Palestinian siege that left one IDF soldier dead from loss of blood. It left Kever Yosef under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Livnat was one of 15 followers of the Breslov Chasidic community who prayed at Kever Yosef early Monday morning a week ago. They were a known group. Palestinian Authority police fired on their vehicles as they left the area.
The IDF’s initial response was that the Jewish group did not coordinate their visit with military authorities, and the IDF spokesman referred to the shooting as an "incident” and not an attack.
After the victim was identified as Livnat, a nephew of Likud Minister Limor Livnat, the government’s tone changed. Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the killing, and Voice of Israel government radio, which initially emphasized that the prayer group endangered themselves by not notifying the military, turned critical of the Palestinian Authority for shooting at people who were known to them as regular visitors.
In response, the spokesman for the PA security forces defended the shooting and murder, saying that “settlers are not normal people." That racist statement missed the mark. Livnat was a resident of Jerusalem, although he grew up in Elon Moreh, located in Samaria.