The site of Joseph’s tomb in Nablus was torched by a mob of over 100 rioting Palestinians on Friday, October 16, 2015. Although it is unclear whether the Jewish biblical patriarch Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are buried at the location, the tomb remains an important holy site for the Jewish people. In more recent times, the site has also been claimed by Christians and by Muslims.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner confirmed the site will be restored. However, he said the act of arson “is a blatant violation and contradiction of the basic value of freedom and worship.”
Prior to the attack, several extremist groups, including Islamic Jihad, declared Friday as a “day of rage.” Although it is unclear whether the burning of Joseph’s tomb was part of the planned violence against Israelis by organized mobs and terrorist infiltrators, the Palestinian National Authority, in an unusual move, announced plans to conduct a full investigation into the devastating incident.
— CNN (@CNN) October 16, 2015
According to witness reports, hundreds of masked Palestinians were observed at the site setting the destructive blaze.
In the Christian and Jewish faiths, it is widely believed that Joseph’s remains were transported from Egypt to the present-day Nablus.
As discussed in The Holy Land and the Bible, “Jews, Samaritans, and Christians, alike accept it as the actual place of the burial of the patriarch.” Author Cunningham Geikie D.D describes his personal impression of the tomb and its location.
“The traditional tomb of Joseph lies about six hundred yards north of the well, beside a little mosque with a low dome… The tomb stands in a little yard close to the mosque, at the end of a fine row of olive- and fig-trees, and enclosed by a low stone wall. Two low pillars stand at the head and foot of the tomb, their tops hollowed out and blackened by fire… “
— chairman oohmowmow (@Chairmnoomowmow) October 16, 2015
Although the site of Joseph’s tomb remains sacred, it has been a point of controversy between Jews and Muslims since the reestablishment of Israel in 1948. The Palestinian Authority has made a policy of denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and sacred sites in the Holy Land as part of an organized campaign to erase the 3200 years of continuous Jewish habitation and history in land of Israel. Although not one reputable Biblical Archeologist, specialist in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic languages or Biblical Historian has ever denied that the Jewish people lived in Israel 1800 years before Islam existed, the Palestinian Authority’s Deputy Minister made the following baseless claim, “Palestinians were in Jerusalem centuries before the Jewish religion.”
According to some religious texts, including the Bible, Jesus’ father was indeed buried in present-day Nablus. However, other accounts suggest Joseph was either buried in Egypt or transported elsewhere for burial.
Unfortunately, the tomb has also been the site of conflict, vandalism, and violence over the last 20 years. Since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1995, the Palestinian Authority has been in control of the tomb. Jewish worshippers are only permitted to visit the tomb once a month in the middle of the night. Before the Jewish visitors can travel to the tomb, the IDF must secure the highway leading to Nablus to prevent Arab protesters from stoning and throwing molotov cocktails the caravan of Israeli vehicles.
As reported by Jewish Virtual Library, conflicts at and around Joseph’s tomb have resulted in numerous deaths and devastating loss.
In October 2000, seven people were killed in the area surrounding the tomb. Amid the conflict, “a mob ransacked the site, burned books and destroyed reading stands.” The mob of Palestinians did extensive damage to the tomb while the Palestinian Authority Police assigned to guard the site stood by and did nothing to stop the violence. An American Rabbi was murdered near the tomb on the same day.
As reported by CNN, violence has claimed an estimated 42 lives within the last three weeks in Israel. Most recently, a Palestinian assailant stabbed a soldier in Kiryat Arba. Witnesses said the man was disguised as a news photographer.
Although Joseph’s tomb was extensively damaged by the fire and by the rioters, officials said they are determined to rebuild the sacred site. As reported by NBC News, officials are also concerned that other sacred sites and tombs of important Jewish figures from the Old Testament, including Rachel’s Tomb, will be targeted by the Palestinian mobs.
[Image via Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]