‘We'll continue to enter Joseph’s Tomb with vigor'

Following shooting of Ben Yosef Livnat, head of Breslav group leading clandestine visits says 400 worshipers go to Nablus site monthly.

Ben Yosef Livnat 311 (photo credit: Family Courtesy)
Ben Yosef Livnat 311
(photo credit: Family Courtesy)
The head of the group behind the clandestine forays into Nablus to access Joseph’s Tomb stressed on Tuesday that such nocturnal expeditions would continue “with greater vigor and might,” just two days after Ben-Yosef Livnat was killed at the site by PA policemen.
Benny Machlev, director-general of the Yesod Olam Society, explained why some – primarily Breslav Hassidim like himself – put themselves at risk to be physically present, even if for short periods of time, at sites believed to be the burial sites of important Jewish figures.
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“Every rabbi will tell you that the sanctity and dignity of the grave site of a righteous person must be safeguarded, and we must strengthen our control of it,” he said.
“Of course,” Machlev continued, “the rabbis do not want people to do this in a way that endangers lives.
“Entering these sites is a personal goal – so that each and every person might be able to freely enter these holy sites.”
Since 2007, the IDF permits and secures a monthly delegation, usually numbering between 700 to 900 men and women, coinciding with Rosh Hodesh – the beginning of the new Jewish month.
But this option does not satisfy everyone.
To Machlev’s estimate, there are approximately 40- 50 clandestine night trips to Joseph’s Tomb every month, reaching some 400 men altogether – “of whom 50 percent are regulars.”
Machlev confirmed the report that the influential Rabbi Eliezer Berland, leader of the Jerusalem-based Shuvu Banim Breslav community which Livnat was part of, told his hassidim not to visit Joseph’s Tomb in the days between Pessah and Shavuot (the days of sefirat ha’omer), since this period is one of disasters for Jews. Normally, Berland’s hassidim make a special point of visiting Joseph’s Tomb.
Recently appointed Chief Rabbi of Samaria Elyakim Levanon on Tuesday called on rabbis not to send their students and disciples to Joseph’s Tomb without coordinating with the IDF.
“Rabbis who tell their students to go there are not familiar with the situation in Nablus and endanger their students’ lives,” he said on Radio Kol Hai.
The dangers and loss of a member of their community notwithstanding, “We will continue to enter with greater vigor and might,” Machlev said, without saying when and if their methods of entry will change.
“There is always a feeling of danger,” he said. “This is not a night out in Tel Aviv; we are dealing with a city of murderers,” he said of Nablus.
As for the composition of those who go to the tomb against the army’s orders, “It’s all kinds of people, not just Breslav Hassidim,” Machlev said. “You have settlers, haredim – basically anyone who is worried about the site.”
Of course, it is the Breslav movement that is the dominant force in Joseph’s Tomb and other similar sites in Israel and elsewhere, Machlev said, “since it is the Breslav Hassidim who have sanctified safeguarding our forefathers’ graves.”