Ten years have passed since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. One notorious incident at the beginning of the uprising – the exchange of fire at Joseph's Tomb, during which Border Guard Madhat Yusuf was killed and the site evacuated and torched by angry Palestinians – marked the end of a permanent Israeli presence there.
However, on Monday night about 1,000 people came to the tomb to pray for the first time since the site and the tomb it contains were renovated.
The Civil Administration coordinated security with Palestinian security forces for the visitors who came to mark the Ushpizin prayer at the tomb in the center of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
"The process was led by the army and the Samaria Regional Council after a personal request from the head of the Civil Administration to the Palestinian Authority," a source at the site said. "It was closely coordinated, according to an agreement between the sides to safeguard religious sites."
Praying at Joseph's Tomb (Photo: Samaria Regional Council)
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika and rabbis from Israel and around the world were present along with Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, head of the Civil Administration.
'Moving, historical moment'
At the end of the visit, Hotovely expressed her sorrow that despite the Oslo Accords, according to which the tomb was to be under full Israeli control, a Jewish presence was not renewed after the incident ten years ago.
"It's shocking that such a holy place still has no permanent Jewish presence," she said. "Joseph's Tomb should be managed like Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Jews must be permitted to pray there regularly."
Mesika thanked the IDF for security and struggled to hide his emotions. "This is coming full circle," he said. "It is a moving, historical moment and a partial correction to the shame of abandoning Joseph's grave. No other nation in the world would have allowed the disgrace of such a holy, symbolic and heritage site like Joseph's Tomb."
Mesika also called on the government to "correct the distortions" and enable a Jewish presence at the site.
The new gravestone was made and assembled by settlers from nearby Elon Moreh. It weighs some five tons and positioning it called for complex engineering efforts.
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