In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Shas party MK Aryeh Deri visited the tomb of Joseph in Nablus, the Biblical Shechem, The Times of Israel reported. Deri was accompanied by fellow Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur and Petah Tivka Deputy Mayor Uriel Boso. The three men were heavily guarded.
Deri, who serves as Israel’s minister of the interior, was seen praying, singing and dancing. It is thought his visit was timed to coincide with the mystical associations of the seven-week period between the holiday of Passover and the Feast of Weeks. The sixth week represents the concept of yesod, which corresponds spiritually with Joseph.
The Tomb of Joseph is a hotbed for sectarian violence. While located in Area A after the Oslo Accords, the region where the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full civilian and security control, Joseph’s Tomb is one of two Jewish holy sites where Israel was supposed to maintain control.
Currently, The PA is responsible for making sure Jews have access to the site and are safe to pray there. In reality, however, Jews are only permitted to visit once a month, in coordination with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and in the middle of the night to minimize friction with local Palestinian residents. PA security forces have not always been helpful.
Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan coordinated the visit. In a video of the event posted online, Dagan lamented the cloak-and-dagger proceedings required to approach the Tomb. He noted that the trio had to sneak in “in the middle of the night, surrounded by soldiers like thieves in the night.”
Dagan also called on the Israeli government to “come to its senses” and retake control of the Jewish holy site, as permitted by the Oslo Accords.
Meanwhile, Joseph’s Tomb continues to draw conflict. On two separate occasions in April, IDF soldiers escorting visitors to the tomb were pelted with rocks by local Palestinians. In one incident, the Israeli army says, the soldiers responded with tear gas and “live bullets fired at the lower body”.
In October, Palestinian rioters torched the tomb, drawing condemnation from both Israeli leadership and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. A group of Israelis tried to access the site without military coordination, ostensibly to examine the damage caused by the riots. Five of them were accosted by Palestinian security forces, pulled out of their vehicles and beaten before being handed over to Israel. The IDF extricated the remaining visitors.