The story of Joseph’s Tomb is a microcosm of the failures of appeasement. The tomb of the biblical Joseph is a specifically Jewish site. Muslims, who claim Joseph, along with most Jewish biblical figures, as a prophet, have their own tomb for him elsewhere, which should have settled the matter.
But things being what they are, it couldn’t end that way. Once the full-scale “Palestinian” historical revisionism began to kick in, the tomb was reimagined as the resting place of some Muslim Sheikh named Yusuf followed by all the expected violence.
In the early days of the al-Aqsa Intifada, on the morning of October 7, 2000, Israel withdrew the small contingent of IDF border policemen who had been guarding the site of the Tomb of the Patriarch Joseph and its Yeshiva. The holy site was located in Shechem in Samaria, the town the Arabs call “Nablus”. Over the preceeding days, the Tomb had been attacked with gunfire, stones, and firebombs. The IDF defenders in the compound withstood the attacks and stopped several attempts by armed Palestinians to break in. An IDF border policemen was wounded, and the heavy rioting prevented his evacuation for treatment in time to save his life.
In order to prevent further loss of life and to lower tensions in the area, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak authorized the temporary evacuation of the site, based on the agreement of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to safeguard the location, in accordance with their obligations under the Oslo Accords to protect holy sites, Jewish and Christian, and ensure access by all. The PA also pledged to prevent any vandalism and to return the Tomb to its original state after the violence settled down.
The PA pledge was brazenly violated about two hours after the Israeli evacuation, when a Palestinian Arab mob entered the Tomb compound and began to systematically destroy everything in sight, including all remnants of the Yeshiva. The furniture and books that were left behind were burned by the mob. The Palestinian police stood by, failing to prevent any of these violent activities, despite their committment to guard the Tomb. Within hours, Joseph’s Tomb was reduced to a smoldering heap of rubble. Within two days, as an Associated Press dispatch reported, “the dome of the tomb was painted green and bulldozers were seen clearing the surrounding area,” as the Palestinian Arabs sought to transform the biblical Joseph’s resting place into a Moslem holy site.
Israel’s withdrawal from the site was later understood as a grave strategic error. It marked the first time that the IDF had withdrawn under fire, surrendering territory to Palestinian Arab violence. Coming barely a week after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, the retreat from Joseph’s Tomb sent a dangerous signal to Yasser Arafat, confirming that violence would force Israel to capitulate.
The story has had more twists and turns since then. But the violence has continued. Muslims demand an end to military activities on their Ramadan, but seem to have no trouble plotting attacks on other people’s holidays at their religious sites.
Palestinians attacked a gathering of Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus early Thursday morning, throwing stones, bricks and firing an automatic weapon, according to Israeli media reports and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). None of the worshipers were wounded, but a Palestinian was injured by Israeli troops responding to the attack.
Because the Jewish holy site is located in a large Palestinian city, Israel Defense Forces personnel were guarding the worshipers, estimated at 1,400 by the Jerusalem Post. They were praying in advance of the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which begins Friday evening.
In 2011, Palestinian Authority policemen fired on three cars carrying Jewish worshipers who had just prayed at the site, killing an Israeli father of four.
That’s Islamic interfaith outreach for you.