After more than a month with no Jewish visitors allowed, over 1,500 Jews on Sunday night went to Kever Yosef (Joseph's Tomb) in Shechem (Nablus) located in Samaria to pray at the grave of the Jewish patriarch from the Torah - only to find it vandalized.
The Jewish visitors discovered that the electric system of the tomb compound was destroyed, with light bulbs and fluorescent light fixtures smashed, leaving the Tomb in utter darkness.
In an almost symbolic act hearkening to the Hanukkah story in which the Maccabees rededicated the Second Temple with light after the Greek occupiers desecrated it, the visitors lifted the darkness at the Tomb by lighting a massive hanukkiya (holiday candelabrum) for the sixth night of Hanukkah.
Deputy Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan noted "today, the sixth night of Hanukkah, we discovered serious vandalism: they broke the fluorescent lights, destroyed the (traditional) eternal light and again harmed this holy place. It's particularly painful to see this on the Hanukkah holiday."
"Nevertheless, we lit here together with the IDF and residents the Hanukkah candles on the roof of Kever Yosef," said Dagan. "We are certain that as opposed to our entry here today like thieves in the night, we will merit to come here openly with a flag of Israel on this site forever."
IDF forces guarded the 20 busloads of Jewish visitors, with the effort headed by Samaria Brigade Commander Col. Shai Kalper, Efraim region Commander Col. Guy Berger, and other senior officers.
Visitors included prominent figures such as Rabbi Mordechai Gross of Bnei Brak, the Beit Aryeh Regional Council head Avi Naim, paratrooper soldiers from the Samaria town of Yitzhar who were wounded in the recent Gaza operation, and the family of Yosef Livnat hy''d who was murdered at Kever Yosef by Palestinian Authority (PA) policemen.
The Hanukkah candles were lit by Dagan, Shai Kalper and Guy Berger.
"We wish to be strengthened together with the IDF forces and the residents for more building, more settling, another community until the light pushes out the darkness," said Dagan.
Dagan and the other organizers thanked Kalper and other officers for the security and cooperation throughout the night visit.
"The entry to Shechem and Kever Yosef is important to us, we secure it so as to preserve the operational freedom of action and also to allow security for those coming in here," said Kalper. "We do it once per period of time, and do our maximum to allow it."