Under tight security, thousands of Jews visit Joseph’s Tomb in PA-run Nablus

“Joseph chose unity with his brothers in spite of everything, and we should learn from the righteous Joseph,” said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Thousands of Jews, including two government ministers, visited Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus (Shechem) Tuesday night while the IDF protected them from a Palestinian riot.

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar of the Likud, who does not regularly sport a kippah, said he came to the holy site because Joseph was a unifier.

There is a “great rift” in the nation, he said, referring to the highly divisive controversy over the government’s plans for judicial reform. “The righteous Joseph was the one who healed the rift between all the tribes…. He saw peace in the nation as the most important thing.”

According to the bible, when Joseph was viceroy of Egypt, he forgave his brothers instead of punishing them for having sold him as a slave years earlier.

“The unity of the people,” Zohar continued, “is our strength as a nation, to be strong and to defeat the many enemies that the people of Israel unfortunately have.” It is incumbent on the nation to come together, he said, “because we don’t have another country, we have no substitute.”

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The proof of Israel having enemies was right outside the doors to the complex, as it is located in an all-Arab city in Samaria that is currently a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism. Residents first burned tires and tried blocking the roads leading to the Tomb to prevent the worshipers from arriving.

After the buses rolled in, terrorists also shot live fire and threw explosives, Molotov cocktails and rocks at the army units who were guarding the visitors. The IDF forces used riot-dispersal means and fired back, reporting that several of the anarchists were hit, either with live rounds or rubber bullets. Arab media reported that a number of Palestinians were taken to local hospitals after the clash.

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, several MKs and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan also attended the evening of prayers and called for national harmony.

“Joseph chose unity with his brothers in spite of everything, and we should learn from the righteous Joseph,” said Dagan. “There are ideological differences, but let no person raise a hand against his brother.”

Both he and Zohar noted how “sad” it was that the pilgrimage had to take place in the way it did, with Dagan describing it as coming “like thieves in the night” to what is “one of the holiest places for the Jewish people.”

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He reminded the participants that under the Oslo Accords, the tomb and the road leading to it were supposed to be under Israel’s complete control, but that this clause in the Israeli-Palestinian agreement has been ignored.

Palestinians have injured and even killed Jewish visitors to the site over the years, as well as  vandalizing it repeatedly. They have set it on fire more than once, including last April, when the tomb itself was partially broken. It has been repaired each time out of the Israeli government’s coffers.

All civilian pilgrimages to the site must be authorized by the IDF, which accompanies the groups in large numbers to ensure their safety. Tuesday night’s trip was an annual occasion – unless security requirements dictate otherwise–  as it is the date dedicated to the biblical Joseph during what is known as the Counting of the Omer, the seven-week period between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot.