Palestinian rioters vandalized Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday night amid clashes with the IDF, setting fire to the site, damaging the gravestone, a chandelier hanging above it, a water tank and an electricity closet.
The vandalism came amid the second night of arrest raids made by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, following a deadly terrorist attack on Thursday night on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv that claimed three lives.
The terrorist, Raad Hazem, 28, was from the nearby Palestinian city of Jenin.
“We will not accept this kind of an attack on a place that is holy to us, particularly on the eve of Passover,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “We will reach the rioters. Of course, we will make sure to rebuild what they destroyed, as we always do,”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the destruction of the holy site “extremely serious” and said that he “sent a ‘sharp message’ to the Palestinian Authority about it.”
The attack on the Jewish holy site a few days before Passover stoked religious tensions, which were already high due to the concurrent Muslim month of Ramadan, as the international community has pressured Israel to ensure freedom of worship.
“The vandalism of Joseph’s Tomb is a serious event and a grave violation of freedom of worship in one of the holiest places for every Jew. It violates the feelings of the entire Jewish nation, especially when it occurs during the Muslim holy month,” Gantz said.
“The State of Israel will take action to ensure that the site will be refurbished and quickly returned to its original condition. In addition, we will take all the measures necessary to prevent such incidents.”
Speaking in three languages – Hebrew, Arabic and English – Gantz demanded “the immediate reinforcement of... officials on-site and decisive action against rioters and terrorists that harm stability and security in holy places.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said, “Attacking holy sites is attacking the heart of a people. The Palestinians who laid waste to Joseph’s Tomb seek to sow destruction and devastation during a holy festival. This is serious damage not only to the tomb itself but to the deeply held feelings of the Jewish people.
“We will bring the perpetrators to justice and repair Joseph’s Tomb. I call on everyone to promote calm and quiet,” he said.
Former prime minister and opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I strongly condemn the destruction of Joseph’s tomb tonight by Palestinians. This is a serious attack on an important and sacred place for the Jewish people on the eve of Passover. The place must be renovated immediately and peace and security must be restored.”
Likud MK Ofir Sofer said, “The vandalism in Joseph’s Tomb shows, time and again, how hard it is for the Palestinians that we have returned to our homeland.” He referenced the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis, which says there are three locations that “the nations of the world will never be able to take from the Jews: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Joseph’s Tomb.”
The Yesha Council said in a statement that “the destruction of the tomb is another red line that has been crossed and that attests to a level of violence and the loss of deterrence on the part [of Palestinians security forces].
“We are appalled by the incident and demand strong condemnation from all political parties. The IDF must return to the site of Joseph’s tomb and preserve the holy place,” the statement said.
The tomb, located in Nablus and built on the site of the biblical city of Shechem, remained in IDF’s hands after the 1993 Oslo Accords but was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in October 2000. The transfer happened after a gunfight over the site in which 17 Palestinians and Border Police Cpl. Madhat Yusuf, 19, of Beit Jann, were killed. The Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva, which had been located there since 1982, was forced to relocate to the Yitzhar settlement.
Jewish access to the site is limited and occurs only with the help of an IDF escort, although there are Jewish worshippers that enter Nablus illegally to pray at the tomb.
The small building located near a school has been severely vandalized in the past. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan called on Sunday for the IDF to regain control of the tomb, allow the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva to return and open it up on a permanent basis to Jewish worshippers.
“We call for the immediate return of the IDF,” said Dagan, who recalled that the tomb had been destroyed by Palestinians when they set it ablaze in 2015 and was restored by the Samaria Regional Council.
Dagan said that in allowing the tomb to be destroyed yet again, the PA had shown that it was no different than ISIS.
The Land of Israel Caucus, headed by MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Orit Struck (Religious Zionist Party), plan to visit the Tomb late Monday night.