Jews Return to Joseph’s Tomb

JERUSALEM – Eight years after the site was heavily desecrated by Palestinians, Jews this week quietly returned to Joseph’s Tomb in the northern West Bank to rebuild the structure in hopes of a continued Jewish presence at the tomb – Judaism’s third holiest site.

Joseph’s Tomb is the believed burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became viceroy of Egypt.

Following repeated Palestinian attacks, Israel in October 2000 unilaterally retreated from Joseph’s Tomb and, with very few exceptions, banned Jews from returning to the site purportedly for security reasons.

Within less than an hour of the Israeli retreat, Palestinian rioters overtook Joseph’s Tomb and reportedly ransacked and then partially destroyed the structure. Local Arabs have since set the tomb on fire several times, including an incident last February in which WND first reported burning tires were found inside.

The past few months, the Israeli Defense Forces has been protecting small, monthly convoys of Jews who quietly pray at the tomb for about an hour under the cover of darkness. The visits were arranged by Israel’s Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika along with a local organization, Shchem Ehad.

On Monday night, Mesika led a group of Jewish students and professional contractors to the tomb, where the group repainted the exterior and interior of the structure and laid a new concrete stone covering on Joseph’s tombstone, which had been smashed by local Muslims.

Shromron Community Council liason David Haivri told WND the plan is to bring more professionals to the tomb in the near future to complete renovations. He said the ancient dome-shaped roof needs to be reinforced and a Jewish seminary attached to the tomb structure needs to be completely rebuilt. In 2000, television footage showed the dome being smashed by Palestinians after it was painted green – a color associated with Islam.

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