Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Activist Wants Joseph's Tomb Rebuilt
By: Sergey Kadinsky
THE JEWISH PRESS (NY)
January 28 2009
"It's nice to get some good news from Israel," said Barry Freedman, executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), which was hosting Shomron Regional Council spokesman David Ha'Ivri, who came to New York to provide an update on the rebuilding efforts at Joseph's Tomb.
In October 2000, shortly after the Second Itafada erupted, Joseph's Tomb was destroyed. Since then, local Jewish leaders have made efforts to restore access to the tomb, and promote its rebuilding.
The momentum for rebuilding took off in November 2007, when Gershon Mesika was elected mayor of the Shomron Regional Council, which represents some 40 Jewish communities in Samaria or northern West Bank. Seeking to improve the image of the settler community, Mesika appointed Ha'Ivri to lead its Liaison Office. "We created the Liaison Office to open up the Shomron to the world," said Ha'Ivri. "Conflict is only a small part of our life. We have organic farming, and we're building kindergartens"
Mesika also vowed to use his position to rebuild Joseph's Tomb, which is a short drive from his home in Elon Moreh. Under Mesika's leadership, the Regional Council and the IDF agreed to allow buses to visit the tomb every month at night, under tight security. Concrete was poured for a new tombstone, and Chanukah candles were lit for two of the nights.
During presentations to audiences, Ha'Ivri shows a 10-minute documentary, "Kever Yosef - Rising From the Ashes," which describes the history, significance, and present condition of the tomb. Among those quoted in the film is New York Times Middle East reporter Isabel Kershner who expresses surprise at the diversity of worshippers at the tomb.
While many local Muslims dismiss any notion of the tomb's holiness, another local religious group shares the Jewish viewpoint. "We have full cooperation with the Shomronim," said Ha'Ivri, referring to the Samaritans, an ancient Shechem-based sect. "They preserved Kever Yosef when there were no Jews [living] there. They view themselves as the children of Yosef." Ha'Ivri recently met with Samaritan leader Ovadia Cohen to discuss joint tourism projects.
In the meantime, while access to Joseph's Tomb still remains limited to a monthly list of bus passengers, Ha'Ivri promotes a new park built in the town of Har Bracha, which overlooks Nablus, the Arab city built atop ancient Shechem, "Mitzpeh Yosef - Joseph's Overlook." "Kever Yosef is only 300 yards below," said Ha'Ivri.
Until a permanent Jewish presence can be restored to the site, Ha'Ivri sees Mitzpeh Yosef as similar to kibbutz Ramat Rahel, from where Jewish pilgrims gazed at Rachel's Tomb before it was liberated by Israel in 1967.
When an audience member at a recent lecture questioned whether the Regional Council's efforts were bearing fruit, Ha'Ivri noted that 25 Knesset members of various parties agreed that the current condition of the tomb is intolerable. "We're running a serious campaign for public opinion in Israel."