For the interim, they are asking that any construction be suspended until the matter is clarified.
A short time after chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar visited Nablus, the Samaria rabbis sent them a strident letter under the title "Have you murdered and also taken possession."
The rabbis – including Rabbi Eliezer Melamed from Har Bracha, Elyakim Levanon from Elon-Moreh, David Davidkavitch from Yitzhar, and others – asserted in regards to the renovations that "there is no greater defamation of God than this."
The letter reads: "It is inconceivable that such a disgrace should take place! Joseph the Righteous is turning over in his grave merely from the thought that such a wicked hand which destroyed his mark be the one to renovate him, and not as 'repentants,' but as self-interested people who will even receive Israeli funding for doing so…
"If the PA is granted the permission to renovate the tomb, it is clear that it will build it to be used as a mosque in every manner, whose future implications may not be rectified."
The rabbis claim that the move intended to restore the grave is in reality a double-edged sword: "In the world, the PA will be awarded with appreciation and veneration for its 'willingness' to renovate the tomb, and, in reality, the PA will be granted de facto ownership over the site, which is one of the three sites that the nations of the world cannot contest Israel's ownership of them. Furthermore, funding for this will come from the Civil Administration, from the Israeli taxpayer."
A plan in place
The Samaria Regional Council brought up the fact that the government long ago decided to build a yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb that would be government run by the Council for Religious Affairs. However, ever since, Palestinian police and PA members have desecrated the site on numerous occasions, torching it and breaking its dome. Tires have been burned on the site, the grave itself smashed, and the complex strewn with trash, debris, and urine.
In the past two years, the regional council and the group Shchem Echad have attempted to renovate the entrance to the tomb in coordination with the political and military echelons. About a year and a half ago, IDF officers in the zone and local settlers restored the tombstone. A few months later, they cleaned and repainted the sooty tomb and erected a setup for safety railings. In addition, the IDF commissioned a plan from a Samaria construction company to build a new dome for the tomb.
"The construction has already been built," said an official in the regional council. "The dome was supposed to be built in the coming days."
The settlers are accusing the Civil Administration of a grab by handing over the construction of the tomb to the PA "contrary to all agreements." They called it "an act that is not to be done – spitting on Joseph the Righteous' tomb."
Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger said in response to the Samaria rabbis' letter that it is indeed best to hear the opinions of the local rabbis, and even of the Chief Military Rabbinate, on the matter. On the other hand, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar sees no problem with Palestinians renovating the site so long as the holy ritual objects inside the tomb are installed by Jews.
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