Thousands of worshipers are expected to visit Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus Sunday night, to mark the anniversary of the biblical Joseph's death.
Though the visit was duly coordinated with security forces, a disagreement over the number of buses allowed in the compound has resulted in Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, chief rabbi of the Samaria Regional Council, to boycott the event, following what was called "the disgraceful and humiliating conduct of the defense establishment."
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Ynet learned that initially, the settlements' heads demanded that 40 buses be allowed into the compound, but only 20 were granted entry – each bus shuttling no more than 50 people – in rotation, in order to prevent worshipers from barricading themselves inside, as they did during the last mass prayer service held in Joseph's Tomb.
The defense establishment then decided to scale the number of buses down to 15.
A statement by the Samaria Regional Council and Rabbi Levanon said that "Unfortunately, the defense establishment is preventing the general public from having respectable access to Joseph's Tomb and has significantly and intentionally decreased the number of participant to half… thus preventing prominent dignitaries, rabbis and yeshiva heads from partaking in the service as they always do.
"In protest, we hereby wash our hands of the event and any responsibility to what may take place there sans the presence of public leadership. The IDF and defense establishment will be solely accountable for that."
While the statement is meant as a symbolic disapproval, it does – to some extent – green-light infiltration attempts to the security-sensitive compound.
Hilltop Youth leader Meir Bertler welcomed the council's decision, calling it "brave" and lauding its "courageous decision not to yield to savage dictations."
A Hilltop Youth statement added that hundreds of its activists, split into small groups, will march on Joseph's Tomb throughout the night without coordinating in with IDF forces.
Mass security forces deployment has been ordered near and on the premises, in order to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the compound.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan slammed the military's decision to downsize the prayer service: "This is a serious mistake. Over the past few days I've implored the military to avoid it, to allow even more people into the compound, but to no avail.
"Nevertheless, no one is allowed to defy the military's orders and go into Nablus. It could prove dangerous both to those individuals and to IDF soldiers. We will continue to try and organize entries to Joseph's Tomb, and try and have it back under Israel's full control," he said.
A military source hinted the decision to downsize the number of worshipers stemmed directly form the events of the last mass prayer held in Joseph's Tomb. "We saw what happened last time, when the entrance wasn’t duly supervised. We've learned our lesson."
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