(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar conducted an unprecedented
visit to Jewish holy sites in Nablus and Jericho on Thursday, ahead of the High
For the first time in 10 years, a high-ranking Israeli
delegation came in broad daylight to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and the ancient
Shalom Al Israel synagogue in Jericho.
The visit, the first of its kind
since the IDF pulled out of Nablus and Jericho, was said to be the result of an
ongoing dialogue between Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites Shmuel
Rabinovitch and the head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria Brig.-
Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who organized the tour. OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi
Mizrahi and Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig.- Gen. Nitzan Alon also
The rabbis prayed at the sites and were briefed by Mizrahi
on the arrangements under which Jews can pray there. Both sites are in
and hence under Palestinian security responsibility.
The IDF cited the
visit as another example of the improving security situation in Judea
Samaria, which can be credited, among other factors, to
measures led by the military, and the tightening of ties between the IDF
Palestinian security forces.
Metzger used the opportunity to speak out
strongly against the phenomenon of clandestine nocturnal infiltrations
Joseph’s Tomb complex.
Since the site was taken over by Palestinians in
2000, Jewish worshipers have been barred from entering during the day.
of November 2007, monthly nighttime visits, coordinated with and secured
IDF, enable busloads of Jewish worshipers to access the tomb.
individuals and small groups, usually Breslav hassidim or Samaria
occasionally attempt entry into the Palestinian-controlled zone on their
risking their lives by doing so.
“This is a mitzva born out of sin,” the
chief Ashkenazi rabbi said of the unregulated infiltrations.
on life-endangering,” he added, noting that only last week one such
had nearly been killed by IDF troops who mistook the Jewish worshiper
“This does not please Joseph the Righteous,” Metzger
admonished, and called for a halt to visits that are not coordinated
Executive Director of the Samaria Liaison Office David
Ha’ivri said he was “very enthusiastic about this important development
chief rabbis, which shows the importance of these holy sites. Their
will bring the authorities to allow more visits [to Joseph’s Tomb],
pressure of individuals who come on their own and endanger
“We hope this important visit will herald more freedom of
access for Jewish worshipers,” he said.
The Od Joseph Hai yeshiva,
located at Joseph’s Tomb, was overrun and vandalized by local Arabs in
2000. It has since been reestablished in nearby Yitzhar.
Council Chairman Gershon Mesika has for the past few years been heading
by the local residents to be allowed to fix up the site. In July, the
enabled a work team to spend one night cleaning and renovating the tomb.