Shechem/Tomb of Joseph
Cheshvan 3, 5761
November 1, 2000
At the end of August, 2000 I was praying for guidance, wondering how Daniel had come to the conclusion that it was time for God's hand to move and for the captivity to end. I mean, it's easy to look at it centuries after and think how obvious it was, but when you're living through the history how do you know what's real and what's the product of an overactive imagination? The Fall feasts were coming up and there was relative calm throughout the Middle East but there was an air of anticipation and lots of speculating going on. What was going to happen? Is it time for something to happen?
Seven weeks...seven weeks...seven weeks...kept showing up whether I turned on the tv, read a book or meditated on the word of God so I marked my calendar and started a seven week countdown.
Six weeks later, September 29th, 2000, the Middle East erupted and I congratulated myself on being an idiot. By then I had already looked at a calendar and figured those seven weeks weren't going to end on Rosh HaShanah and were going to miss Yom Kippur by a day or so which were the two dates I would've picked if I was a betting kind of person. October 7th came and went and I thought nothing more of it.
A couple of weeks after the October 7th date had passed, I started wondering why I had thought "seven weeks" was so important and I started playing the "yes it's true/no you're deluded" game until I came to the point where I thought I might just check out that date more thoroughly. Well, why didn't you do that in the first place, you ask? A couple of different answers come to mind and the first one being I didn't think God would answer my prayer (who am I? nobody) and then I had to shut off what exactly was going on everywhere and just concentrate on that one date. (This makes me wonder what other things I have missed because of my unbelief.)
The only two items I found were that three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and that Joseph's Tomb was decimated/desecrated. I had read the news about these items and neither seemed to be a watershed momet but I had come to the conclusion that following up on that date was important not because I could figure it out completely, but because it was more of an exercise in obedience; I had received that date and I should follow-up on it even if I could not as that time figure out why. I decided to concentrate on Joseph's Tomb but do not in any way want to infer that the lives of those three hostages is considered any less of a tragedy.
The first source I consulted was the Online Bible. I'm giving all there is in the "topics" section of this great resource and then I'm adding all scripture verses they reference (and sometimes a little more to make things clearer).
1. The son of Hamor the Hivite #Ge 33:19 34:1ff.
Genesis 33:18-20 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money. And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.
El-elohe-Israel="the mighty God of Israel"
Genesis 34:1-31 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife. And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son. And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father. And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
2. A descendant of Manasseh #Nu 26:31 Jos 17:2
Numbers 26:31 And of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites:
Joshua 17:2 There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families.
3. A city in Samaria #Ge 33:18
Genesis 33:18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
called also Sichem #Ge 12:6
Genesis 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
Sychem #Ac 7:16
Acts 7:15,16 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
It stood in the narrow sheltered valley between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south, these mountains at their base being only some 500 yards apart. Here Abraham pitched his tent and built his first altar in the Promised Land, and received the first divine promise #Ge 12:6,7
Genesis 12:6,7 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Here also Jacob "bought a parcel of a field at the hands of the children of Hamor" after his return from Mesopotamia, and settled with his household, which he purged from idolatry by burying the teraphim of his followers under an oak tree, which was afterwards called "the oak of the sorcerer" #Ge 33:19 35:4 Jud 9:37
Genesis 33:19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
Genesis 35:4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
Judges 9:37 And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
See MEONENIM 25483
#Jud 9:37 A.V., "the plain of Meonenim; "R.V., "the oak of Meonenim" means properly "soothsayers" or "sorcerers, ""wizards" #De 18:10,14 #2Ki 21:6 Mic 5:12 This may be the oak at Shechem under which Abram pitched his tent.
Here too, after a while, he dug a well, which bears his name to this day #Joh 4:5,39-42
John 4:5,6 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
John 4:39-42 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
To Shechem Joshua gathered all Israel "before God, "and delivered to them his second parting address #Jos 24:1-15
Joshua 24:1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea. And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
He "made a covenant with the people that day" at the very place where, on first entering the land, they had responded to the law from Ebal and Gerizim #Jos 24:25
Joshua 24:25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
the terms of which were recorded "in the book of the law of God", i.e., in the roll of the law of Moses; and in memory of this solemn transaction a great stone was set up "under an oak" (comp.) #Ge 28:18 31:44-48 Ex 24:4 Jos 4:3,8,9 possibly the old "oak of Moreh, "as a silent witness of the transaction to all coming time. Shechem became one of the cities of refuge, the central city of refuge for Western Palestine #Jos 20:7
Joshua 20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
and here the bones of Joseph were buried #Jos 24:32
Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Rehoboam was appointed king in Shechem #1Ki 12:1,19
1 Kings 12:1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.
1 Kings 12:19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.
but Jeroboam afterwards took up his residence here. This city is mentioned in connection with our Lord's conversation with the woman of Samaria #Joh 4:5
John 4:5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
and thus, remaining as it does to the present day, it is one of the oldest cities of the world. It is the modern Nablus, a contraction for Neapolis, the name given to it by Vespasian. It lies about a mile and a half up the valley on its southern slope, and on the north of Gerizim, which rises about 1,100 feet above it, and is about 34 miles north of Jerusalem. It contains about 10,000 inhabitants, of whom about 160 are Samaritans and 100 Jews, the rest being Christians and Muslims. The site of Shechem is said to be of unrivalled beauty. Stanley says it is "the most beautiful, perhaps the only very beautiful, spot in Central Palestine." Gaza, near Shechem, only mentioned #1Ch 7:28
1 Chronicles 7:28 And their possessions and habitations were, Bethel and the towns thereof, and eastward Naaran, and westward Gezer, with the towns thereof; Shechem also and the towns thereof, unto Gaza and the towns thereof:
has entirely disappeared. It was destroyed at the time of the Conquest, and its place was taken by Shechem.
See SYCHAR 26542
Liar or drunkard (see) #Isa 28:1,7 has been from the time of the Crusaders usually identified with Sychem or Shechem #Joh 4:5 It has now, however, as the result of recent explorations, been identified with 'Askar, a small Samaritan town on the southern base of Ebal, about a mile to the north of Jacob's well.
3.3.4 Abimelech & the Kingship. Following the death of Gideon Abimelech, the son of his Shechemite concubine (Judges 8:31) claimed the kingship that his father had refused (9:1-3: cf. 8:22-23). Having persuaded the citizens of Shechem to follow him he set about murdering all but one of his brothers (9:3-7). Jotham, the only surviving son of Gideon addressed the citizens of Shechem by way of a prophetic parable which foretold their destruction by fire (9:7-21). After three years the people of Shechem decided that they had had enough of Abimelech's rule and attempted to make Gaal son of Eded their leader (9:22-30). Abimelech learnt of Gaal's rebellion and attacked the city from the plain to the east as the people were going out to work in the fields (9:31-45). Once the city had fallen Abimelech turned his attention to the stronghold of the temple of Ba'al berith, where about a thousand of the city's inhabitants had taken refuge. Rather than lay siege he set fire to the tower, killing the remaining citizens of the city (9:46-49). Abimelech himself was slain shortly afterwards attempting to repeat this procedure in the nearby city of Thebez (9:50-55).
3.4 Monarch to Exile.
3.4.1 David's Laments. Shechem is mentioned by David in two national laments attributed to him (Psalm 60:6-8=108:7-9). The verses cited remind the audience that it is the Lord who has measured and given the land; the people are only his tenants. He is also sovereign over the nations.
Hosea refers to the depths the Northern Kingdom had descended to in graphic language when he speaks of bands of priests who murder those on the road to Shechem (6:9). Such activity was not unknown in the days before the monarchy (cf. Judges 9:25) and was facilitated by the narrow ravines through which the city was approached (Toombs, 1992: 1175). Shechem was a city of refuge and as such was supposed to be a place of safety. Ironically the situation in the land had degenerated so far that those fleeing the avenger of blood were in danger from the very people who were meant to protect them.
3.5.1 A Samaritan City. The Assyrians settled exiled peoples from other nations in the Northern Kingdom. According to 2 Kings these peoples were taught how to worship the Lord in order to bring prevent attacks by lions, seen as divine judgement. However, the people simply added the worship of Yahweh to their own beliefs and worshipped both (2 Kings 17:24-34). During the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem the Samaritans sent messengers offering their help so that they might take part in the temple worship. The sharp rebuff they received led them to fiercely oppose the reconstruction and a long lasting hostility between the two peoples (Ezra 4:1-3; cf. Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9).
When Alexander the Great defeated the Persians he was initially supported by the Samaritans, who put 8 000 troops at his disposal in his campaign against Egypt. When Alexander left they attempted to free themselves from his rule:
While Alexander was in Egypt, the Samaritans in Samaria revolted and killed the newly appointed governor, Andromachus. In retaliation Alexander destroyed the city of Samaria and established a garrison of 600 troops there. Many of the Samaritans fled to the foot of Mt. Gerizim and, with Alexander's permission, built a temple to rival the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Anderson, 1988:303-304).
3.6.1 Stephen's Speech. Stephen's speech as recorded by Luke in Acts 7:2-53 provides a review of the history of Israel from the time of Abraham. Verse 16 and its reference to Shechem has proved particularly difficult to explain. The problem arises because it apparently contradicts the text of Genesis by stating that Abraham, rather than Jacob bought the plot of land at Shechem from the sons of Hamor (Gen. 33:18-19; cf. 23:3-20). Commentators have suggested a number of explanations for this: a) Abraham was the original purchaser of the field and Jacob merely renewed the transaction as he did with the well Abraham's servants had dug (Gen. 21:27-30; 26:28-31) (Archer, 1982: 379-380) This relies on an argument from silence as Genesis makes no mention of any land purchase at Shechem by Abraham. More importantly there is no reference to a tomb on the plot that Jacob bought. b) Jacob bought the site in Abraham's name, so in effect Abraham bought the land (Stott, 1990: 134). c) Luke records Stephen's speech accurately, a speech that contains a number of generalisations and conflations after the manner of popular Judaism of the period. Four similar difficulties of the same sort occur in verses 2-8 of the same chapter, indicating that Stephen was not intending to be absolutely accurate in the details he presented (Longenecker, 1981: 340-341). This seems to be the best explanation of the passage.
c 1998 Robert I. Bradshaw
[yeshivah=Jewish religious school; seminary.--Moza]
Shechem -- the city where Joseph was sold into slavery, which he later inherited and where he was buried -- is the place where redemption will begin with acts of violence and destruction.
The Torah tells us that, just before Jacob died, he gave Joseph an extra piece of Israel -- the city of Shechem (Genesis 48:22). It was in Shechem that Joseph's brothers sold him down into slavery, and, it was to Shechem that the bones of Joseph were brought from Egypt hundreds of years later for their final burial.
It was here in Shechem -- called Nablus by the Arabs -- that the yeshivah stood, until two weeks ago, when it was viciously destroyed.
Regarding the territory of Joseph, the Zohar, the chief work of the Kabbalah, has this to say:
In the time of the resurrection of the dead, many camps will arise in Land of the Galil, because that is where the Messiah is going to be first revealed, since it is part of Joseph's territory. It will be the first place to be destroyed. It will begin there ahead of all other places, and then spread to the nations. (Zohar, Vayakhel 220a)
The Destruction of Joseph's Tomb: A Kabbalistic View
Rabbi Pinchas Winston
BATTLE IN SHECHEM - EYEWITNESS REPORT
by Hillel Liberman, of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai The site of Joseph's Tomb, Shechem (Nablus)
13 Tishrei 5757 / Sept. 26, 1996
6:30 AM. The students of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai, located at Joseph's Tomb, had arrived at the Horon army camp, from which they usually travel to the yeshiva. They were notified that the bus which transports them daily to the yeshiva would not be doing so that day. The army had decided the night before not to allow civilians into Shechem since Arab riots were expected. A few hours later, the students went to wait at the mobile army post at the entrance to Shechem.
7:30 AM. An Israeli army jeep carrying six soldiers was sent to Joseph's Tomb to reinforce the eight soldiers who daily guard the compound. It should be noted that the Israeli military guard protecting the yeshiva compound at Joseph's Tomb is composed of two parts. One guards the inside of the yeshiva compound, which includes the building surrounding the tomb, the yeshiva proper, and the army post, and is surrounded by a wall. The Arab police force is not permitted to enter this area. The other guard unit is based outside the walls of the compound, and conducts joint patrols with the Arab police.
9:00 AM. After a large demonstration in the central square, the Casbah, of Shechem, Arabs began to march on Joseph's Tomb. Within minutes, the tomb was surrounded on all sides by thousands of Arabs, who began to pelt the compound with rocks and firebombs. In addition, the same Arab policemen who regularly served on the joint patrol with the Israelis now began firing at the Israeli soldiers with their Kalashnikov machine guns. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded in the shooting. The Israeli forces immediately called for help.
10:00 AM. Five Israeli jeeps carrying thirty additional soldiers arrived at the yeshiva compound to disperse the riots and assist the wounded soldiers. They stood outside the compound, shot into the air and thus forced the crowd to retreat to a safe distance. Temporarily, things were under control.
Then, the soldiers received orders (apparently from a high-ranking commander, over the radio) to allow the Arab police to control the riot. The thirty Israeli soldiers entered the compound and allowed the Arab police to take over. Not only did they take over, but they led the masses toward Joseph's tomb and began a pogrom.
11:00 AM. Arabs from all sides broke into the outer courtyard of the yeshiva compound, which serves as the army post, shooting in all directions, and in a short time took control of this area. The Israeli soldiers again tried to disperse them, but any Israeli soldier who was in sight was shot at by the Arab police, who also threw three grenades into the inner part of the compound.
The Israeli soldiers retreated into the thick-walled building which encompasses Joseph's tomb, and the Arabs advanced into the yeshiva proper, after setting fire to the army post and the caravan which housed the Israeli soldiers. At this point, the Israeli soldiers again radioed for help.
The Arabs, upon entering the yeshiva, engaged in a pogrom reminiscent of scenes from Kristallnacht, when synagogues in Germany were ransacked by Nazis prior to the Holocaust. Sacred texts were burned or torn to shreds, talises (prayer shawls) and sacred tefillin were thrown to the ground, and anything of value was pillaged. The yeshiva's office equipment, refrigerators and freezers, beds, tables, and chairs, and all the food, were stolen. The library was set afire, the structure of the building was extensively damaged, and everything was in ruins. The only exception was the building of Joseph's Tomb itself, where the Israeli soldiers had taken cover, and the yeshiva's Torah scrolls, which the Israeli soldiers miraculously managed to save in the course of the riots.
12:00 noon. Two or three armored personnel carriers were sent into Shechem to save the soldiers trapped in the building of Joseph's Tomb. They had received orders to refrain from opening fire. As they entered Shechem, they were shot at from every rooftop near the yeshiva. The vehicles had not been properly protected for such an attack. Six soldiers from this force were killed, two of them only because they were unable to receive medical assistance in time, since there was no way to take them out of Shechem before they died from loss of blood.
It should be noted that throughout the riots, two Israeli helicopters hovered over Shechem, but they were not ordered to take action against the Arab masses who surrounded Joseph's tomb.
1:30 PM. The killed and wounded soldiers were taken out of Shechem in the middle of the riots via armored personnel carriers. Forty-one soldiers remained trapped inside Joseph's Tomb.
2:00 PM. The mobile army post located at the entrance of Shechem received eight tanks and five additional armored personnel carriers with which to enter Shechem and attempt to rescue the soldiers in Joseph's Tomb. At this point, Major-General Uzi Dayan, the central region commander, arrived and took over command. At first, all the soldiers were ordered to prepare to enter Shechem, and they donned their gear and entered the tanks. However, Gen. Dayan then telephoned the Arab authorities to try to settle the matter peacefully. No order was given for the tanks to go in. The Arabs offered to evacuate the soldiers from Joseph's Tomb and bring them alive to the outskirts of Shechem in exchange for the Israelis' relinquishing control over the tomb. General Dayan contacted Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai and advised him of the situation. The latter replied that as it appeared that the soldier's lives were in danger, the tomb should be abandoned.
Dayan then notified yeshiva and civilian representatives present that in all likelihood he would have to abandon Joseph's Tomb. It was clear to all that were the soldiers to retreat from Joseph's Tomb under Arab fire, (1) it would be a long time before a Jew would again be able to set foot in Shechem or pray at Joseph's Tomb, and (2) the Arabs would be so emboldened by their victory that they would likely attempt to oust Israel's presence from other Jewish holy sites such as Rachel's Tomb, from Hebron or from any Jewish settlement they please, and -- since a precedent would have been established -- they would be allowed to succeed.
General Dayan was faced with a difficult decision. He himself felt strongly that under no circumstances should Israel surrender to the Arab rioters and abandon Joseph's Tomb. His opinion was reinforced after a telephone conversation with the Rosh Yeshiva (the dean), Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.
General Dayan notified the Arab authorities of his refusal of their offer. He told them they would be held responsible for the lives of the soldiers at Joseph's Tomb, and that should anything happen to the soldiers he would order the Israeli tanks to enter Shechem. The Arabs took the threat seriously, and within minutes quieted all the rioting around the tomb.
Once notified of the army's decision, the yeshiva students and faculty began calling government ministers to ensure that in the cabinet meeting scheduled for 9:00 PM that evening, the government would not decide to abandon Joseph's Tomb. Fortunately, by the evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his cabinet had decided that the army would not abandon Joseph's tomb, but on the contrary, Israel reinforce its protection of the holy site.
It should be noted that even within the context of the Oslo agreements, the army and the government had long been advised of the untenability of the existing arrangements. It had been urged that some buffer area be provided so the Israeli soldiers could defend themselves in the event that the Arab police were unable to properly defend the site, or, as actually happened, should the Arab police attack it themselves. As it happened, it was nothing short of a miracle that civilians, specifically the yeshiva students, were not harmed. The yeshiva faculty expressed hope that this situation would now be remedied in light of the tragic events of this week.
October 7, 2000
At another hotspot, Joseph's Tomb near Nablus in the West Bank, the Israeli army withdrew its forces in a gesture to reduce tension, and despite the pleas of the Palestinians' governor for Nablus dozens of Palestinians promptly destroyed the shrine.
Demonstrators hoisted an Islamic flag over the site, and Amin Maqbul, an official from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's faction Fatah, told the crowds: "Today was the first step to liberate al- Aqsa."
Control over al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest site which shares its location with Judaism's holiest place, is the major obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty and it was a visit there by hard-line Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon on September 27 that set off the wave of violent protests.
Israel's commander for the West Bank, Benny Ganz, described the ransacking of Joseph's Tomb as "catastrophic" and said Israel was considering retaking the shrine.
Israel reads Riot Act to Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians as conflict spreads
Copyright 2000 by Agence France-Presse
Joseph's Tomb is reduced to rubble as troops pull out
By Phil Reeves in Nablus
8 October 2000
Conflict in the Middle East slid towards still-bloodier turmoil yesterday after Israel withdrew its troops from a besieged shrine in Nablus, only for it to be torn down and burnt by a crowd of jubilant Palestinians using crowbars, pickaxes and their bare hands.
As news of the destruction of Joseph's Tomb spread, a stand-off began between Israeli troops and enraged Jewish religious settlers, armed with automatic weapons, whom the soldiers were holding back on the edge of the town, where they gathered after seeing the huge plume of black smoke.
The site was reduced to smouldering rubble – festooned with Palestinian and Islamic flags – by a cheering Arab crowd within hours after Ehud Barak, Israel's prime minister, staged a pre-dawn pull-out, evacuating six soldiers who had been defending it for more than a week, aided by rockets from helicopter gunships and hilltop snipers.
The withdrawal was agreed with the Palestinian authorities, whose armed police escorted the soldiers out of the Arab city, and was an attempt to cool off a conflict that has claimed more than 80 lives in just over a week. But it was on condition that the Palestinian security forces protect the shrine. The fact that they failed to do so caused outrage in Israel, and will increase pressure on Mr Barak to crush the current up-rising with even more military force. The site – in the heart of Palestinian-controlled city – is a classic example of the tortured historical disputes entwined in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It is revered by a small group of Zionist zealots, who are convinced that it is the tomb of the Old Testament patriarch dating back 3,000 years – a claim scoffed at by most archaeologists.
Muslims insist that it was the tomb of an Islamic cleric 200 years ago, although that did not deter the crowds yesterday from destroying what had become a hated Israeli outpost, a symbol of occupation, and – in the last week – a killing ground on which six Palestinians were killed and one Israeli border guard – a Druze – bled to death, after his commanders concluded as too dangerous him out.
"We have achieved the impossible with our hands and our souls," said Hisham, 18, as he stood in the midst of the shrine's smoking ruins, while a youth with a pickaxe smashed a hole in its small domed roof and a pick-up lorry tore down the walls using a chain. "They used this place, in the heart of our city. We must make sure that the Jews never come back."
There were noisy celebrations in the streets of Nablus where the withdrawal was hailed as a Palestinian military victory – a rare event – in which Kalashnikovs and molotov cocktails had ousted the Israelis, something that seven years of peace negotiations did not achieve.
Israel said the withdrawal was temporary. However, it would now be impossible for them to re-take the shrine without triggering another furious battle, with certain loss of life. But there was widespread anger over Yasser Arafat's failure to protect the place – a factor that will now deepen Ehud Barak's political isolation. "The whole operation was based on co-operation," said a senior Israeli military commander. "If they cannot co-operate, we will have to find another way."
As hundreds of youths wrecked and looted the site, Colonel Firas al-Amleh, a senior Palestinian police officer stood on an ammunition box nearby and watched the scene disapprovingly. He said its destruction was "uncivilised" and claimed he was trying to persuade the crowds to stop – although there was no obvious sign of that.
Joseph's Tomb has been one of the biggest battlegrounds of the last 10 days – and perhaps the most breathtakingly pointless. Unusually, the latter was in part acknowledged yesterday by a senior Israeli politician, the deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh.
"The question is, what interest did we ever have there?" he said. "There was never a politica, military or settlement justification to stay in Joseph's Tomb. Over the years, the army has protected a small, marginal group that wanted to use this site as a foothold for settlement in Nablus, that is the honest truth."
On the edge of Nablus, bearded members of that marginal Jewish group looked on in fury, held back by Israeli troops, and began stoning Palestinian cars.
"We are feeling real pain," said Ben Galant, as he watched the smoke rising in the distance, surrounded by a clutch of other, furious, gun-toting settlers.
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member and Chair of the PLC's Land Committee Salah Al-Ta'mari, stated, "The Israeli soldiers must be routed from Rachel's Tomb and the area in its entirety should be returned to the boundaries of Bethlehem [as was done in Joseph's tomb in Nablus]." (6)
(6) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, October 8, 2000.
October 10, 2000
Early Sunday night, Israeli security forces discovered the bullet-ridden body of settler Hillel Lieberman, who was last seen on Saturday morning heading for Joseph's Tomb after he heard that Palestinians were desecrating the site. Lieberman's body was discovered lying in a cave between the old Askar Junction and Beit Furik in Samaria, in Area C, under Israeli control.
An IDF statement issued last night said, "Lieberman was murdered in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists as he made his way to Nablus. The IDF holds the PA directly responsible and expects the PA to put an immediate end to all the violence."
October 10, 2000
IDF: Palestinians building mosque on Joseph's Tomb site
By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Correspondent
The Palestinian Authority began renovations on the site of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus on Tuesday. Israeli military officials said the Palestinians intend to build a mosque on the ruins of the site that was set on fire and demolished by Palestinians on Saturday.
A Palestinian Authority spokesman denied that a mosque was being built and said that Arafat had ordered renovations to be carried out on the site and for the syangogue to be rebuilt.
The destruction of the site came after the Israel Defense Forces evacuated its troops from Joseph's Tomb on Saturday, following a pre-arranged agreement with Palestinian security forces. Despite the agreement, the Palestinian Authority forces did not prevent thousands of Palestinian demonstrators from storming the site, after the IDF evacuation, and setting it on fire.
Israelis and Palestinians contest holy shrine
October 11, 2000
By Jamie Tarabay, Associated Press
NABLUS, West Bank (AP)--Israel fought to hold on to a holy site where many Jews believe a biblical figure is buried. Palestinians, determined to rid their town of an Israeli presence, drove the soldiers away.
Now the mayor of Nablus has called for international experts to determine who is really buried at the site: a Muslim sheik or Joseph, son of the biblical Jacob.
Mayor Ghassan Shakaa also said that the site, ransacked by Palestinians after the Israelis fled, would be repaired. Workers were fixing the damage Tuesday but were also painting the top of the dome green the color of Islam.
That step is likely to anger Israelis, who were already enraged by television footage that showed Palestinian mobs hacking through the dome and burning Jewish prayer books after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the area last weekend.
The Jewish belief that Joseph was buried in the biblical town of Shekhem, near the present-day Palestinian city of Nablus, is based on a number of references in the Old Testament and the Talmud. But no one knows for certain that he lies buried in the place regarded by some as Joseph's Tomb, said Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, who heads a seminary in the town of Petah Tikvah near Tel Aviv.
Some archaeologists say the tomb is only a few centuries old and may be the resting place of a Muslim sheik. Others say they believe Joseph was buried at the site.
"Let's find out who this tomb really belongs to so we can reach a solution,'' said Shakaa.
"If it's Sheik Yousef, we will turn it into a Muslim shrine,'' he said. "If it's the Prophet Joseph, who we also believe in, then we have to talk about how we can resolve this, how we can organize visits by Jews under Palestinian control.''
The tomb was partially destroyed after Israeli soldiers withdrew following a week of fighting that left six Palestinians and one Israeli dead. The site was home to a Jewish seminary and was also used as an Israeli army outpost. An American-born rabbi who taught at the seminary was found slain on Sunday outside of Nablus. Hillel Lieberman was to be buried on Wednesday.
But to Palestinians, the tomb and the isolated garrison of soldiers who guarded it were a constant reminder of the military occupation that they found intolerable.
"The people who demolished this place were very angry because a lot of people were killed around this place,'' said Nablus resident Ibrahim Dwekat. "The people here believe that this place is a military location for the Israelis and not a religious place.''
The Israeli army is already contesting that assertion.
"Contrary to statements from the Palestinian Authority... the area of Joseph's tomb is a holy place for Jews,'' the army said.
Footage of Palestinians painting the dome of the tomb green was broadcast on Israeli television Tuesday, and the Israeli army warned in its statement that the Palestinians were laying the groundwork for turning "a Jewish holy place into a Muslim mosque.''
Shakaa said the city simply wanted to return the building to the way it looked before it came into Israeli hands in the 1967 Mideast war.
October 13, 2000
After seizing Joseph's Tomb and converting it into a mosque, Salah Ta'amri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and chairman of the PLC's Lands Committee, said: "Now we have to kick the soldiers out (of Rachel's Tomb) and restore the site to the city of Bethlehem." At the same time, articles appeared in the press to explain that Rachel's Tomb is actually a mosque (Billal bin Rabbah) and that the area in fact belongs to the Muslim waqf.
Another lesson from the riots
By Ze'ev Schiff
* "We will declare our independent state on May 4, 1999 with Jerusalem as its capital, yes Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our state, whether they like it or not. Now we are on our land and we are regaining this holy land inch by inch until we set up our state in 1999." PLO leader Arafat -- speech in Shechem, 11-14-98.
F.Y.I. - Israel in the News
Week Ending: 21 November 1998/2 Kislev 5759
Web site: http://www.tzemach.org/fyi
IV. Official Palestinian Authority Radio Broadcasts Sermon Forbidding Recognition of Israel
Following are excerpts from the April 30, 1999 weekly Friday prayer sermon broadcast live on the official Palestinian Authority radio station Voice of Palestine:
"Our position has not changed at all. The land of Muslim Palestine is a single unit which can not be divided. There is no difference between Haifa and Shechem (Nablus), between Lod and Ramallah, and between Jerusalem and Nazareth. The division of the land of Palestine into cantons and the recognition of the occupation is forbidden by religious law, since the land of Palestine is sacred Wakf land for the benefit of all Muslims, east and west. No one has the right to divide it or give up any of it. The liberation of Palestine is obligatory for all the Islamic nations and not only for Palestinian nation_.
All Israeli politicians across their entire political spectrum, regardless of their labels, they all have a single Zionist view embodied in the occupation of the land and the establishment of the Zionist entity at the expense of the Muslim Palestinian land_
Allah shall free the captives and the prisoners, Allah shall grant victory to our jihad warriors."
The [Israeli] Prime Minister's Report
Volume 3, Number 24
May 3, 1999
Tensions rising at religious sites in territories
Weekend News Today
By Andra Brack
Wed Aug 25,1999 -- At the beginning of the week, the IDF conducted a practice exercise for the medical staff at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. For the exercise, the headquarters of the territorial brigade planned to send medical equipment, which includes dummies used to practice resuscitation. Palestinian police officers at the site objected. The dummies, they ruled, would be removed from the tomb site each evening and returned only in the morning. After an extended crisis, which included intense contacts between the parties, Palestinian disruptions of the shuttle buses, which bring the yeshiva students to the tomb, and stone throwing into the compound, a compromise was reached. This ended the latest crisis at Joseph's Tomb. In recent months, numerous similar confrontations have erupted with increasing frequency. The reasons are mostly prosaic: arguments over the introduction of a loudspeaker into the tomb site, the planting of grass, the movement of a medicine chest or the bringing in of plastic chairs for a circumcision ceremony. Last week, the dispute was about the angle a Border Patrol jeep was parked at the compound entrance. The Palestinians suspected the IDF was trying to block the luggage compartment, hiding the transfer of equipment into the site. The Oslo agreements contain a commitment to safeguard freedom of prayer and the status quo at two sites sacred to Judaism in Area A, Joseph's Tomb and the ancient synagogue in Jericho. The situation in Jericho in no way resembles Nablus. The disputes generally center around the entry of equipment into the compound, which Israel feels it has a right to do so, requiring it at most to notify the Palestinians beforehand. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, considers this a dangerous violation of the status quo. In order to enforce their will in the disputes, the Palestinians block entry to the compound to worshipers. Thus, the regular functioning of the compound is dependent on the good will of the Palestinians, a rare commodity. The IDF has noticed a steady erosion in the arrangements and it fears what may ensue. For the Palestinians (and quite a few Israelis) the yeshiva is a thorn in the flesh, a possible future site of renewed Jewish settlement. In addition, there is severe mistrust, a direct result of the riots. Adding fuel to the flames is Nidal Assouli, assistant brigade commander of the Nablus Palestinian police. Assouli is usually responsible for holding up the buses and has organized demonstrations and has even sent policemen to hurl stones at the compound. The Oslo agreements have created two Israeli enclaves within Palestinian territory, Joseph's Tomb and Netzarim in Gaza. The incidents at the tomb demonstrate the volatility of the situation how easily these sites can be used to exert pressure on Israel. The implementation of the final stage of the second withdrawal is likely to place 15 Israeli settlements in similar situations, in very close proximity to the Palestinian Authority. The village of Uhm Tsafa will be hundreds rather than dozens of meters away from the settlement of Neveh Tsuf after the redeployment, but under such circumstances, it is no wonder the IDF prefers to turn a blind eye when settlements pave alternative access roads.
The students at the Joseph's Tomb Yeshiva feel like they have been on a roller coaster this week. Several days ago, they put in a new floor in the yeshiva compound in Shechem, to replace the one that was destroyed during the battles with the PA over three years ago. The local Palestinians were upset at the change to the status quo, and demanded that the army destroy the works - which it did. The army also closed off the entrance and the exit to the yeshiva compound. Tensions quieted after Yesha Council leaders came to the site to meet with the army representatives on the matter. This morning, however, the situation intensified once more when the army again prevented students and worshipers from entering the yeshiva compound, after a yeshiva student threw a stone on a Palestinian para-military police agent. As of this afternoon, it is not yet clear when the students will be allowed to return to the yeshiva; as a rule, they do not spend the Sabbath there, and it is assumed that they will return on Sunday.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Thursday, March 9, 2000 / Adar Aleph 2, 5760
3. SENTENCED TO 35 DAYS FOR SPEAKING
Moshe, a resident of a community in Binyamin, told Arutz-7's Haggai Seri today about the quick military trial and sentencing of his son to 35 days in army prison today:
"My son is a medic, who was recently called to serve in Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai at Joseph's Tomb in Shechem. The commanding officer immediately told him that he was not allowed to spend time in the yeshiva, aside from taking part in the prayers. He told my son, 'You're one of the pray-ers, so you can't be with the yeshiva students during your free time.' My son, who grew up here in Yesha, is very attuned to the importance of the Land to the Jews, and particularly the holy sites, such as Joseph's Tomb. He saw how the army reacted to the yeshiva students' putting in a new floor, and it bothered him very much. In private conversation with some of the other soldiers, my son expressed his opinion that the commander was acting with political motives, and seemed to want to placate the Palestinians more than to protect the Jews living there. These remarks somehow made their way back to the commander, who called him in, tried him and sentenced him on the spot to five weeks. I ask you: If a young soldier can't express his deeply-held views in private conversation, then what is left for him? Is it a crime to speak?!"
8. PA TO RELEASE PRISONERS
The Palestinian Authority has ordered the release of 18 members of the Hamas terror organization imprisoned in Shechem, in honor of the Moslem holiday Id el-Idha. A PA official told the French news agency that the Authority is contemplating the release of 34 additional Hamas members as well.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Sunday, March 12, 2000 / Adar Bet 5, 5760
CLASHES ON 'LAND DAY': Clashes and protests erupted on Thursday as thousands of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs staged rallies across Yesha to mark 'Land Day'. This is the 24th year they are commemorating the confiscation of land from Arab communities in northern Israel. In some cases, the demonstrations turned violent, with Palestinians hurling stones at Israeli troops who fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. At least 20 demonstrators were injured in the clashes. One large protest took place near Shechem where demonstrators set fire to vehicles and threw stones at Israeli security forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The IDF subsequently closed the site of Joseph's tomb near the city to Jewish worshipers for the day. In Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), masked Fatah activists marched down the main street, chanting slogans before firing their guns into the air. And in the neighborhood of Ras el-Amud, in east Jerusalem, hundreds of demonstrators erected barricades on the main street. In Gaza, close to 400 protesters carrying Palestinian flags and banners, blocked the Gush Katif intersection - which leads to Jewish settlements.
MK Hashem Mahmeed, who has been cited for various incendiary statements against Israel in the past, outdid himself this week. At a rally protesting Israeli expropriation of lands in the Israeli-Arab town of Baka el-Garbiye, east of Hadera, Mahmeed said, "Israeli-Arabs must learn from Hizb'Allah how to fight for their lands, in the same way that Hizb'Allah forced Israel out of Lebanon." The crowd responded with wild cheers and applause. Mahmeed is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Tzemach News Service
Week Ending: 1 April 2000 / 25 Adar II 5760
5. SHECHEM, TOO
In Shechem, the Palestinian para-military police have forbidden the entry of Israelis into the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva since last Thursday. The Arabs demand access to lands in the vicinity of Elon Moreh, overlooking Shechem. The yeshiva students have relocated their studies to the Tomb of Elazar, south-east of Shechem. Though they have turned to the army for explanations, they have been told only that the situation is a result of "security considerations."
Arutz Sheva News Service
Sunday, May 14, 2000 / Iyar 9, 5760 - 24th day of the Omer
Joseph's Tomb in ruins once again
(IsraelWire-5/19/00) IDF commanders on Thursday visited the Joseph's Tomb/Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva complex in the autonomous city of Nablus, in northern Samaria, to analyze the situation following Monday's day of Arab warfare.
As was the case during the September 1996 Arab riots, local residents, causing significant damage, targeted the holy site. Firebombs caused the destruction of holy books and sizeable property damage. Since Monday's violence, the site was closed to Jewish worshipers.
On Monday, a tank was deployed on a strategic site overlooking the autonomous city, sending a clear message to the local inhabitants. Colonel Yehuda Shaked, the IDF Shomron Battalion commander stated his forces are preparing for Friday and Saturday, which promise to be accompanied by more Arab attacks. Fatah Panthers have circulated fliers calling for attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians on those days to keep the issue of imprisoned Arab security prisoners at the forefront.
Shaked admitted that the complex is a most "sensitive location" and from a military point of view, difficult to protect and defend. The location sits inside the autonomous city, surrounded by PLO Authority (PA) paramilitary forces. The small border police force assigned to defend the site was withdrawn following the arrival of the tank and were only returned when the situation quieted down. In the 1996 riots, eight Israeli border policemen were killed as they attempted to defend the site while reinforcements were dispatched.
On Monday¸ Nakba Day, no less than 100 firebombs were hurled at the holy site according to a Channel 2 TV News report.
In the meantime, students of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva has set up a temporary structure as close as they are permitted to Nablus, where they continue to hold prayer services in anticipation of being permitted to return, to once again begin restoring the holy site to its former state.
6. THE TRUTH FROM UP CLOSE
The much-battered Tomb of Joseph in Shechem was visited today by MKs Rabbi Benny Elon, Rechavam Ze'evi, Tzvi Hendel, Yuri Stern, and Michael Nudelman (all of National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu). Students of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva there briefed them on the difficulties the yeshiva has faced since the Arab riots there last month. Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman, who accompanied the group, summarized his observations: "A tent - that had replaced the permanent structure destroyed by Palestinian vandals during the Kotel [Western "Wailing Wall] Tunnel riots of the fall of 1996 - was completely burnt by 100 Arab-hurled firebombs at the compound last month. There have been no [substantial] renovations done on the yeshiva even since the first riots! MK Ze'evi discovered today that the PA has offered to renovate the compound. After leaving the compound, the MKs held a meeting to discuss the situation, and they decided that it would be proper to accept the Palestinian offer to pay for the construction - but to insist that only Jewish laborers do the actual work."
Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane: "It's very nice that the PA agrees to foot the bill for the work, but, from what we've heard, they are not letting the students there study!" Huberman: "That's correct. The Palestinian forces are doing everything possible to interfere with daily routine. Two days ago, for instance, there was a day-long stand off between the students and the PA soldiers over a roll of plastic tablecloth. It began when the students brought the roll into the yeshiva, and the Palestinians - just to get their goat - demanded that the roll be handed over to them. The students understandably refused, saying that it was one of their basic supplies. In response, the Palestinian forces prevented students from going in and out of the compound for almost an entire day. Only after lengthy negotiations between the army and the PA were the students allowed to keep the plastic roll..." Huberman added that MKs were disturbed by the excessively-strict control exercised by the PA and IDF over access to the tomb compound. "Some of the Knesset members missed the convoy by five minutes and were forced to wait a very long time until the next trip," Huberman said.
MK Elon reminded listeners today that two million shekels had been earmarked by the Netanyahu government for repairs after the first round of vandalism: "I know that the Defense Ministry approved the reconstruction plan, and that a contract was signed with a company for the work... The problem is that each step of the work has to be approved by the PA - the rioters and the vandals themselves..." MK Elon said that Foreign Minister David Levy is right in saying that "he fears the approach of those ministers living in a state of delusion, who are deceiving the nation, who do not tell the people that we face a terrible danger and not true progress towards peace. Those who get a chance to visit the compound have the opportunity to get a sense of the situation from up close."
Arutz Sheva News Service
Thursday, June 15, 2000 / Sivan 12, 5760
Wednesday, July 12, 2000
Chief rabbis prepared to forgo control of certain 'holy places'
But Old City sites will need tripartite religious agreement
By Amir Oren
The night before Prime Minister Ehud Barak was to leave for Camp David, he sent a special emissary to the two chief rabbis, Yisrael Lau and Eliahu Bakshi-Doron. The emissary was a general who usually isn't in uniform: Maj. Gen. Yaakov "Mendy" Orr, government coordinator in the territories, who is on Barak's staff at the Camp David summit. His mission: to find out where the chief rabbis stand - and what they'll say to the public - about the religious issues at stake in the negotiations.
Orr went back to Barak after two hours with partial success. On one issue, at least, the rabbis will stand by Barak. But that issue, no matter how important, is secondary to the much more critical issue: the Temple Mount.
Lau and Bakshi-Doron told Orr - and through him, Barak - that they would not oppose transfer of control over Rachel's Tomb, Joseph's Tomb and even the Tomb of the Patriarchs, to the Palestinians, as long as appropriate measures were taken to guarantee access, prayer rights and security for Jews at the sites. Neither the halakha nor tradition, they said, requires Jewish sovereignty over graves, including the graves of the religious pantheon. Jews have always given in to the geography that gives others sovereignty over the final resting spots of Jews, from Moses on Mount Nevo in Jordan, to Rabbi Nahman of Breslau in Uman in Ukraine. There is always the matter of the ownership of the property, but it too is a matter that is derived from sovereignty.
This is substantial support for the expected IDF withdrawal from the remaining territories in Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus in an agreement with the Palestinians. But it does not solve the Temple Mount issue.
The preliminary staff work before the departure for Camp David was based on the assumption that the Israeli public would agree to hand over Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem outside the Old City to Palestinian jurisdiction. Israeli Jerusalem in July 2000 is eight times the size of Jerusalem on June 5, 1967. In exchange for transferring the Arab neighborhoods to Palestine, within the context of an umbrella municipality, Israel will not only finally win international recognition of its capital, but Israeli Jerusalemites will enjoy a deep cut in their city taxes.
However, there is no easy solution for the Temple Mount issue. The chief rabbis agree that the halakha forbids any Jew from going onto the Mount until the conditions are right (the reconstruction of the Temple, with the arrival of the messiah), but they do not believe that Jewish sovereignty over the Mount can be relinquished. The Palestinians, through the waqf, would never dare to relinquish the claims to the Mount that they hold on behalf of the Arab world and Islam.
It's a religious problem more than a political one. And that's where a formula might be found for a tripartite, Jewish-Muslim-Christian administration that would preserve the status quo - but that's a formula that still needs a rhetorical juggle that would win approval not only from the Israelis and Palestinians but from authorities far from the Holy Land.
8. RABBINATE, IDF DENY HA'ARETZ REPORT ON MACHPELAH CAVE
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said that the Chief Rabbinate insists that the Machpelah Cave and Joseph's Tomb remain under Israeli control in any future arrangements with the Palestinians. In a conversation with Arutz-7 today, Rabbi Lau dismissed yesterday's report in Ha'aretz, which stated that the rabbis expressed a more "lenient" opinion on the issue to Barak-aides Oded Eran and Brig.-Gen. Ya'akov Ohr. Ohr's office, too, denies that the rabbis gave a green light to an Israeli forfeiture of the Machpelah Cave. According to Ohr, the rabbis stated that the Jewish people have a historic right to the cave and the Tomb of Joseph. Hevron's Jewish community called on the Chief Rabbis to dispatch an explicit message to this effect to Prime Minister Barak's entourage in Camp David.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Thursday, July 13, 2000 / Tammuz 10, 5760
The Palestinian Authority is planning to pave a highway from Jenin southwards to Shechem. The Palestinians signed a contract this week with the American State Department, which will contribute $70-80 million towards the project. The planned road is located totally in Palestinian-controlled area, and will run roughly parallel to another already-existing road in Israeli area.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Friday, August 4, 2000 / Av 3, 5760
BARAK TO CEDE JOSEPH'S TOMB
Prime Minister Ehud Barak is reportedly poised to give away more Jewish historic sites to Yasser Arafat. This time it's Joseph's Tomb in Shechem and the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho. According to the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha), Barak has told security officials to prepare to transfer the sites in question to full Palestinian Authority control. In response to the plans, the Council said today: "The transfer of these structures to the Palestinians makes a mockery of Prime Minister Barak's post-Camp David pledge 'to protect Jewish holy sites.'"
Arutz Sheva News Service
Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2000 / Av 14, 5760
IDF DISMISSES REPORT ON ABANDONMENT OF BURIAL PLACE
An official IDF spokesman has dismissed the Yesha Council's claim that the Tomb of Joseph will be soon transferred to full Palestinian Authority control. In response to a question posed by Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman, the spokesman said that he "does not know of any such initiative." The denial is not being taken seriously by Yesha leaders, who note that a meeting has been scheduled between army officials and the administration of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva located there to discuss the future of the compound. According to information obtained by the Council, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has already instructed the security establishment to prepare for the transfer of the Tomb and the Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho to PA control. The arrangement will allow for the entry of Jews into the tomb compound, but no IDF soldiers will be permitted to remain there.
Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva director Yehuda Leibman said that army officials have been visiting the site over the past few days to study possibilities for further security reinforcements. "In our view, the recent moves are consistent with reports that the army intends to abandon the site, although nobody in an official capacity has specifically informed us of such a plan. Joseph's burial place holds no significance for Moslems, and handing it over to the Palestinians would essentially spell the end of the yeshiva - since past experience has shown that handing over full control to the Arabs would result in great damage to the site." During the Palestinian-initiated "tunnel riots" of 1996, local Arabs set fire to the compound, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Another attack on the site during Arab riots this May pitted armed Palestinians against IDF guards - and led to further damage to the site. "The sages tell us that there are three places which the Gentile world cannot claim were stolen by the Jewish people: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Joseph's Tomb," Leibman said. "It is horrifying to think that a Jewish government would 'sell Joseph a second time.' The name of our yeshiva, 'Od Yosef Chai' ('Joseph Lives On'), is no mere slogan; Joseph didn't die. He lives on in the heart of every Jew…"
IMRA noted in 1996 that, aside from the joint IDF-Palestinian patrols operating at Joseph's Tomb, the Oslo II agreement puts no limit on the number of Israeli guards who can protect the compound, as long as they do not wear uniforms. There is also no limitation on their equipment or their deployment inside the site.
Arutz Sheva News Service
Wednesday, August 16, 2000 / Av 15, 5760
[This item is noteworthy as Shechem was designated a town of refuge for Jews who accidentally killed someone.--Moza]
1. THREE SOLDIERS KILLED IN BOTCHED MISSION
Efforts to capture one of the most-wanted Palestinian terrorists failed last night, when three members of an elite IDF unit were fired on and killed, apparently by the terrorist himself. In an attempt to soften the blow of the botched mission, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that several weeks ago, the army did confiscate tons of explosives in a laboratory overseen by the terrorist.
The incident began at 9:45 Saturday night, when IDF troops arrived in Kfar Atzira, north of the Shomron town of Shechem; the mission was to apprehend arch-terrorist Mahmoud Abu-Hunud, who was hiding in one of the houses there. For reasons not yet clear, Abu-Hunud was able to spot the unit, and shot at the soldiers from the rooftop of his house, killing three of them. Other IDF soldiers returned fire, lightly injuring Abu-Hunud, who then fled. "After a difficult chase through orchards and terraced farms near the village, Abu-Hunud reached an Arab-run hospital in Shechem, and soon turned himself into the Palestinian Authority paramilitary police," reports Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman. "It was during the pursuit through those orchards that a fourth soldier was injured, it seems, from 'friendly IDF fire.'" Surgeons at the Sheba-Tel Hashomer Hospital operated on the soldier and he is now fully conscious, and "feeling fine." IDF forces inspected the house and its environs throughout the night and into the morning, after which it was razed. In the process, they apprehended another Palestinian, named Nidal, who had been in the house with Abu-Hunud.
The dead soldiers are: Twenty-one year-old Staff Seargents Ro'i Even Fielsteiner of Hod Hasharon; Liron Sharvit, 20 of Moshav Beit Hashmonai; and Nir Yaacobi of Tel Aviv. Liron Sharvit was buried at 4:45 PM this afternoon in the Ramla military cemetery, while Nir Yaacobi will be interred in the Kiryat Shaul cemetery at 6:45 PM.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement this morning, offering his sympathies for the deaths, and expressing understanding for "the deep mourning of the families who lost their sons in the incident." He said that "despite the high price, Israel will continue to fight terrorism with all its strength. The terrorists and those who dispatch them will not escape. The IDF and the security forces will continue to stand guard and defend the State of Israel and its citizens."
3. ABU HUNUD C.V.
Mahmoud Abu Hunud is responsible for the deaths of at least 21 Israelis over the past five years. Arutz-7's Kobi Finkler reviewed Israel's file on the terrorist: "Abu Hunud's worst atrocities were the Machane Yehuda and Ben-Yehuda street suicide bombings in the summer of 1997, attacks that killed 19 people. Of the six suicide bombers dispatched to carry out those attacks, four were from his village of Kfar Atzira. He began organizing 'local militias' about ten years ago, but intensified his activity when he took the helm of a unit of the Hamas Izadin-el-Kassam terrorist cell. He was first cited in connection with the shooting of a Jewish doctor in the vicinity of the community of Elon Moreh in 1995, and he helped plan the 1996 murder of high-school student David Boim on the outskirts of Beit El."
Rabbi Uzi Navo, of the Yesha community of Kochav Ya'akov, was the first victim of Abu Hunud's violence. Speaking with Arutz-7 today, Navo described how, while driving down a main road one day, an Arab car pulled up next to him, "and then, at point blank range - they fired three bullets at me!" Originally listed in very serious condition with injuries to the mouth, jaw and neck, Rabbi Navo says that he has now almost fully recovered, and has returned to a relatively normal life.
In the course of today's press conference, Chief of Staff Mofaz said that the fact that Abu Hunud is now in PA custody "is a real blow to Hamas, and it will make their efforts at planning terrorist attacks more difficult to implement." Not everyone agreed with this assessment, however. Likud MK Gideon Ezra noted that Abu Hunud had "escaped" from PA custody on a previous occasion, "as part of the PA's revolving door policy." Correspondent Haggai Huberman said: "Today - and I repeat: today- he is detached from the Hamas terrorist network. But it is noteworthy that Muhammed Def, also a Hamas arch-terrorist, met with Hamas officials in the PA's Gaza offices last week, and is reported to be in good health and good spirits. We can safely assume that Abu Hunud will not be subjected to any worse treatment in Shechem than Def receives in Gaza. If and when the PA wishes, it can choose once again to activate its 'revolving door.'
Prime Minister Barak said this afternoon that Israel will, in the future, demand that Abu Hunud be turned over to Israeli authorities. In August, 1997, Palestine National Council member Hanan Ashrawi told a Voice of Palestine interviewer: "No Palestinian will ever be extradited to Israel. A decision has been made to this effect, and it is inconceivable to think that such a thing would ever happen." For the Prime Minister to pretend otherwise, National Religious Party leader Rabbi Yitzchak Levy said today, is an "embarrassment and a national disgrace."
Arutz Sheva News Service
Sunday, August 27, 2000 / Av 26, 5760
Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Arafat reneges on Joseph's Tomb promise
By Amos Harel
Ha'aretz Military Correspondent
The Palestinian Authority is reneging on its commitment to accommodate Israeli repair and restoration work at damaged structures in the Joseph's Tomb compound in Nablus. Israeli requests to the PA on this matter have yet to show results.
In the aftermath of "Naqba" riots last May, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat promised Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that repair work could be done at the Nablus compound. Hundreds of Palestinians tried to break into the tomb area during the May skirmishes. Members of "Tanzim" para-military organization fired shots at Israeli soldiers in the compound area, wounding one IDF officer. IDF and Border Police gunfire resulted in the deaths of two armed Palestinians, and injuries to many demonstrators.
After the violence, Arafat assented to the repairs at Joseph's Tomb. Two sorts of repair work are required: compound fortifications need to be re- installed, and damage to a closed-circuit television system needs to be repaired; also, structures burned by Palestinian protestors during the September 1996 Western Wall Tunnel disturbances require repair work.
Prolonged discussions between Israel and the PA after the 1996 rioting didn't lead to a repair work agreement. Palestinian requests concerning construction licenses were interpreted by Israeli officials as bureaucratic ploys designed to kill time. IDF officers have turned to Palestinian officials in recent months, asking to undertake the repairs. The Palestinians have been evasive.
The fate of repairs at the compound now depends upon "the intervention of top [Israeli] political leaders" Israeli security sources say. Ultimately, they admit, Arafat must be disposed toward giving the go ahead for the work - and Arafat's inclinations are affected by developments in the talks with Israel.
Joseph's tomb has been one of the West Bank's volatile flash-points since the signing of the Oslo accords and settlers declared the building a yeshiva. Virtually any attempt by Jewish settlers to bring equipment into the compound is interpreted by Palestinians as a political ploy. Interim accord negotiations led to an understanding prohibiting changes in the status of sites sacred to Judaism that are within Palestinian Authority "A" areas.
Heavy fighting going on now at Joseph's Tomb
Weekend News Today
Lead: Kelly Pagatpatan
Tue Oct 3,2000 -- Heavy fighting is being reported at this time between Israeli and PLO Authority (PA) security forces at Joseph´s Tomb in the PA autonomous city of Nablus. According to a Kol M´Hashetach News Agency report, at least ten PA troops have been injured and they are now calling upon Israel to transport them to a medical facility inside “Israel proper,” using IDF air force helicopters.
IDF chief: troop reinforcements deployed at Joseph's Tomb
Weekend News Today
Lead: Kelly Pagatpatan
Wed Oct 4,2000 -- IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Shaul Mofaz stated on Wednesday that troops reinforcements have been deployed at the Joseph´s Tomb complex in the PLO Authority (PA) autonomous city of Nablus. The IDF commander added that if the level of danger to troops became too high, he is empowered to make the appropriate decisions including troop withdrawal, with the full support of Prime Minister/Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
According to the Oslo Agreement signed between Israel and the PA, although the city of Nablus was turned over to total PA control, the complex of the Tomb would remain under Israeli sovereignty and the PA would ensure free access to the location to those wishing to visit. Since the handover of Nablus, PA military troops as well as local Arab residents have targeted the site, with PA officials calling to totally remove the Israeli presence from the city.
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