It is a short video clip, just 33 seconds long, one that is both harrowing and horrifying in equal measure.
The scene is an ancient holy site, cherished down through the generations. Unseen gunmen off-camera can be heard firing a seemingly endless barrage of bullets at dozens of worshippers penned up in a small courtyard who are forced to duck for cover. Their only misdeed was a desire to exercise their basic right to pray safely and in freedom.
The incident captured in the film, which took place just two weeks ago at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, when Palestinian terrorists wantonly attacked crowds of Jews, underlines the dangerous decline not only in our sense of national pride but also in that most basic of instincts: survival.
Two Israeli civilians were wounded in the assault, as well as IDF Col. Roy Zweig, the commander of the Samaria Regional Brigade.
One eyewitness who was at the scene told me, “It was an open miracle” that no one was killed, given the amount of gunfire that was poured down on the Israeli visitors.
"An open miracle"
If you didn’t hear about this outrage, don’t feel too badly. Even the most hardened of news junkies could be forgiven for having missed it, as coverage of the event was fleeting and minimal, as though a brazen assault on innocent Jews at prayer is not worthy of much airtime.
So let’s start with a point so obvious that it should not even need to be made, but which nonetheless serves as a useful reminder of some basic truths.
Had the Jews in the video been the perpetrators rather than the victims; had the site of the attack been a Muslim shrine rather than a Jewish holy site, it seems safe to say that this wanton assault would have been loudly and noisily condemned worldwide, and rightly so.
But since Jews were the target, and Palestinians were the villains, and the location is sacred to the Jewish people, it barely seemed to register in the international media and even in many Israeli news outlets.
Adding insult to injury, this was the second time in the past three months that Palestinians attacked Joseph’s Tomb.
In April, Palestinian vandals invaded the site’s inner chamber, smashing the tombstone and setting it on fire in a savage act of desecration.
At the time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz denounced the incident, calling it “extremely grave” and describing it as a “serious blow to freedom of worship at the one of the holiest places for every Jew.”
But little was done in the aftermath to make the Palestinians pay a price for their actions, so, unsurprisingly, they have now escalated the situation by trying to murder dozens of Jews there.
And just what, you might be wondering, has been the government’s response to this latest attack?
Incredibly, the IDF has reportedly canceled next month’s scheduled visit for Jews to the tomb, in effect rewarding the Palestinian terrorists and punishing the Jewish pilgrims in what can only be described as a warped counterterrorism calculus.
It is precisely such weakness that breeds further contempt and feeds the bloodlust of our foes. After all, if the Palestinians can chase Jews away so easily, what is to stop them from doing so again?
And if they see that such shenanigans succeed at Joseph’s Tomb, does anyone think they will not employ them elsewhere?
Even prior to these recent episodes, the situation at the tomb was deeply troubling, as Jewish visitors faced intolerable restrictions.
Once a month, in the wee hours of the night, a limited number of Jews are permitted to enter Nablus, protected by an IDF convoy, to visit Joseph’s burial site.
Under the terms of the 1995 Oslo II accord, when Israel agreed to turn over territory to Palestinian control, the Palestinian leadership solemnly undertook to protect “freedom of access and worship” at various Jewish holy sites, including Joseph’s Tomb.
But like most of its promises, whether to halt incitement, stop terrorism or simply live together in peace, this, too, proved to be hollow.
LEST YOU think that the site of Joseph’s Tomb is mere legend or folklore and hardly worth making a fuss over, think again.
Indeed, the late Dr. Zvi Ilan, one of Israel’s foremost archaeologists, described Joseph’s Tomb as “one of the tombs whose location is known with the utmost degree of certainty and is based on continuous documentation since biblical times” (Tombs of the Righteous in the Land of Israel [Hebrew], p. 365).
According to Joshua 24:32, “The bones of Joseph which the Children of Israel brought up from Egypt were buried in Shechem [Nablus] in the portion of the field that had been purchased by Jacob.”
“The bones of Joseph which the Children of Israel brought up from Egypt were buried in Shechem [Nablus] in the portion of the field that had been purchased by Jacob.”Joshua 24:32
Ancient rabbinic texts such as the midrash mention the site, as did the early Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, who visited it nearly 1,700 years ago. Arab geographers, medieval Jewish pilgrims, Samaritan historians and even 19th-century British cartographers all concur regarding the authenticity of Joseph’s Tomb and its location.
The footage of the recent assault embodies everything that is wrong about our current situation vis-à-vis the Palestinians. They attack our history and heritage, desecrate our holy places, be it Joseph’s Tomb or the Temple Mount, and we sit back and watch as our national pride is trampled.
It is as if we have forgotten that we have an independent Jewish state whose responsibility is to protect Jewish lives, defend our rights and safeguard our interests.
But Jews need no longer be victims. It would not be easy or simple or cost-free, but Israel must reclaim Joseph’s Tomb and with it our sense of national pride and purpose.
We have a state, we have Jewish sovereignty and we have a Jewish army. All we need now is to regain the will to use them.■
The writer served as deputy communications director under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term of office.