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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Joseph's Tomb Film - Rising from the Ashes

Kever Yosef the burial place of the Biblical patriarch Joseph is located in the city of Shechem in the Shomron. It is traditionally considered to be the burial place of the Biblical patriarch Joseph. Joseph's body was taken from Egypt during the Exodus and later reinterred in Shechem in the specific spot purchased legally by Jacob.

According to tradition, Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are also buried at the site. Israel first gained control of the tomb in 1967, following the Six-Day War and from the mid-1980s a the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva opperated at the site.

In 1995, the city was given over to Palestinian National Authority jurisdiction, however Israeli troops continued to control the site, to ensure free access to students and pilgrims in accordance with the Oslo accords. During the Western Wall Tunnel riots in 1996, the tomb was attacked and six Israeli soldiers were killed.

In October 2000, the shrine became a target of armed militant demonstrators. Seventeen Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in fighting around the tomb.

On October 7, 2000 the Israeli army withdrew from the site leaving it in the hands of the Arab mobs. Soon afterward, the holy tomb and army post were ransacked (the outpost and yeshiva were destroyed in this deliberate attack on a site sacred to Jews); the Palestinian police allowed the ransacking to go ahead without intervention. Thw Arabs then painted the exterior of the shrine's dome green (the color of Islam), with intention to turn the site into a mosque. After some world outcry, the dome was repainted a neutral color but left in ruins.

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New Design of Joseph's Tomb David Ha'ivri on Yishai Fleisher show

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As part of the restoration and renovation of the ransacked tomb of biblical hero Joseph, the Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council has teamed up with the University of Ariel to encourage students to envision a bigger, better Tomb of Joseph complex.

In an interview with Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher, Director of the Shomron Liason Office David Ha'ivri revealed that reconstruction of the site has already begun, 10 years after the holy site was ravaged by local Arabs. Moreover, the site may soon see a dramatic face lift, thanks to a group of students at the nearby University of Ariel's architectural school.

In a recent bid to draw attention to the importance of the Tomb and elicit assistance in restoring it, Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika turned to the University of Ariel's architectural school, an elite program containing 350 students. Students are competing to design a winning plan for the full restoration and rebuilding of the entire complex of Joseph's Tomb. The plans must allow for the pilgrimage of thousands of visitors annually, as well as for a Torah study center. Submissions must include a layout and model, as well as research on the history and biblical significance of the site, as well as programs that should be conducted there.

"The meeting [with representatives of the school] was very inspirational, to meet with Israelis who are secular Zionists and to see their enthusiasm about rebuilding the historical holy site of Joseph's Tomb and reconnecting, building the connection between the people of Israel and their history and our Bible and biblical figures," said Ha'Ivri. "We have seen the connection of people who are religious and understand the Torah significance of Joseph the Righteous one and wish to connect with him, but to see the revival of the connection of the regular secular Israeli to the site is truly amazing."

Ha'ivri encouraged all interested parties to get involved in the restoration by contacting him via Facebook or e-mail.

Attacked and ravaged
The Tomb is located in the ancient Jewish biblical city of Shechem (known by the Arabs as 'Nablus,' a corruption of the Roman name 'Neapolis'). In 1996, during the rioting that followed the opening of the Kotel Tunnel, Arabs attacked an IDF force at Joseph's Tomb, killing six soldiers. Four years later, at the start of the terror war known by the Arabs as the 'Al-Aqsa Intifada' in October of 2000, the Tomb of Joseph and Jewish worshippers at the site were again attacked by local Arabs. Using firearms, rocks and firebombs, Arab civilians laid siege to the Tomb of Joseph compound, attempting to kill IDF soldiers and worshippers. Druze IDF soldier Mahdhat Yousef was wounded and eventually died of loss of blood because the Defense Minister and the IDF top command were reluctant to use extreme force to rescue him.

Following the attacks, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered a unilateral IDF withdrawal from the site. An agreement was reached with the Palestinian Authority that the PA would safeguard the location in accordance with the Oslo Accords, and would ensure access to the site for Jews and Chrisitians.

Within two hours of the IDF retreat, an Arab mob descended on the Tomb, burning furniture and books, and ultimately razing the structure to the ground. The Associated Press reported that the dome of the tomb was painted green and bulldozers were brought in to destroy the compound.

The Tomb of Joseph is one of the most undisputed archeological sites in Israel, and is mentioned several times in the Book of Genesis as the resting place of the bones of Joseph, whose descendants brought him to Israel from Egypt for burial.

Now, thanks to Mesika and his colleague Ha'Ivri, the site is beginning to return to its rightful inheritors.

Cabinet Ministers at Joseph's Tomb: "We Are Here to Stay"

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After having been destroyed by Palestinian Authority vandals, the newly refurbished Joseph’s Tomb structure was dedicated last night in the presence of three Cabinet ministers.

Joseph’s Tomb – once in a field outside Shechem (Nablus), and now surrounded by new, already slum-like homes in the expanding Arab occupied city – became an official Israeli Holy Site under the auspices of the government shortly after its liberation during the 1967 Six Day War.

In 2001, the Oslo Accords granted the Palestinian Authority control of the city of Shechem, but this did not include Joseph’s Tomb. The PA, however, created “facts on the ground” by attacking the site. During the battle, wounded IDF soldier Madhat Yusuf bled to death in the tomb; the Israeli commanders believed the PA promises that he would be rescued, rather than the requests of the beleagured soldiers defending the tomb and did not send in additional IDF forces.

Israel retained official control over the site, but was only able to exercise it in coordination with the PA. Visitors to the holy site dwindled over the years; Jews visited only either clandestinely or four times a year in army-organized midnight visits.

Last Sukkot (October 2010), in a complex, delicate, night-long engineering operation, a new five-ton gravestone was placed over the approximately 3,250-year-old gravesite. (The age of the site is derived from the fact that Joseph’s bones were buried shortly after the Israelites entered the Holy Land and Joshua’s death, as per Joshua 24.)

The Jewish companies of Har Kabir and Shechem Echad organized the effort, together with the Shomron Regional Council and the IDF. At the same time, the entire site – the site of the Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshiva since 1980 – was refurbished in stages, with most of the work being carried out by Shomron residents and IDF soldiers.

The original stone and surrounding structure had been burned, vandalized and almost totally destroyed over the years by Arabs of Shechem.

Thousands took part in the emotional and moving dedication ceremony late last night, including Shomron Regional Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Shomron Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika, and guests from Israel and abroad.

With tears in his eyes, Science Minister Rabbi Prof. Daniel Herskovitz recited the She’hecheyanu blessing, thanking G-d for the return to the site and.said, “Even with the Oslo Accords, this site belongs to the State of Israel. We were sadly forced to leave ten years ago, but thank G-d, we have merited to return".

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, a former Soviet refusenik, said with similar emotion, “We want to be able to come here once again not in the middle of the night with military protection, but with families, babies, and Torah study freely and regularly.”

Transportation Minister Moshe Kachlon added, “We are here from Haifa, Netanya, and all over, and it is a very joyful and emotional moment… it turns out that the Jewish Nation and the Land of our Forefathers are stronger than anything else – and with G-d’s help, we will remain here for many years to come.”

Mesika said, “This is a symbolic closing of a circle, a small correction of the shame and abandonment of Kever Yosef over these years. Joseph was one who united the various parts of Israel, and we thank the IDF for the ongoing partnership in strengthening this site...I call upon the government to officially resolve to make this into a truly Jewish site, with families living here.”

Just before the main celebration, another emotional ceremony for first graders from nearby Elon Moreh was held, in which the pupils received their first prayerbook. Among the participants were rabbis, municipal council members from around the country, senior army officers, and Rabbi Mordechai Gross of Bnei Brak. Many soldiers tearfully prayed and recited Psalms together with the civilians.