Visitors at Joseph's Tomb overnight
Visitors at Joseph's Tomb overnight Samaria Regional Council

More than 6,000 Israelis visited the tomb of the Biblical patriarch Jacob’s son Joseph overnight, in the largest pilgrimage to the site in over a year.

Joseph’s Tomb, located inside the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Shechem in Samaria, is a popular destination for pilgrims, and used to be the home of an Israeli yeshiva, Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives).

Following the signing of the Olso Accords in 1993, however, control of Shechem was ceded to the PA, and at the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, the IDF withdrew from the tomb compound, resulting in the torching and desecration of the tomb.

Over the past decade, however, the IDF has permitted occasional night-time visits to the site, with security forces escorting convoys of buses into the city.

During last night’s visit, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) joined the convoy to Joseph’s Tomb, along with MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), Samaria Regional Council deputy chief Davidi Ben Tzion, former Samaria Regional Council chief Gershon Mesika, IDF Colonel Gilad Amit, Lieutenant Colonel Shimon Shitrit, and the manager of Joseph’s Tomb, Natanel Shanir.

Two weeks ago, the tomb compound was restored and cleaned during a midnight operation of the IDF and managers of the tomb.

“We are blessed with the merit of protecting one of the most important sites in Jewish history,” said Samaria Regional Council chief Yossi Dagan. This massive pilgrimage, with thousands of visitors coming from all over the country and the world, is further proof that against all the odds, the Jewish people hasn’t forgotten its holy places.”

“This, despite thousands of years of exile and attempts both at home and abroad to take us from our heritage. We will continue to take care of and protect and bring tens of thousands of visitors to Joseph’s Tomb and to other sites of historical importance to the Jewish people.”

Minister Uri Ariel said the group came to Joseph’s Tomb “to pray for the Jewish people and our security. We will continue to pray at Joseph’s Tomb, and will demand that we be allowed to return here to learn and pray in the daytime as well.”