Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) on Friday morning called to return Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) to Israeli control, after about 150 Palestinian Arabs on Thursday night arrived at the compound and tried to burn it down.
IDF soldiers arrived and were able to disperse the rioters, who threw firebombs at them. They then succeeded in putting out the fire at the tomb of the Biblicalfigure, with initial reports indicating that damage was inflicted to the women’s prayer area.
“The arson of one of the holiest sites to the Jewish nation is an additional low, and the result of Palestinian incitement,” said Ariel.
“Even as the Palestinians shamelessly lie about (Israel) harming the status quo on the Temple Mount, they themselves are burning and desecrating the holy sites of Israel, and this cannot be forgiven.”
Switching to a call for action, Ariel concluded by saying, “I call on the prime minister to return the control of Joseph’s Tomb to the hands of Israel.”
According to the 1994 Oslo Accords, Joseph’s Tomb was supposed to remain under full Israeli control. But in 2000 amid the Second Intifada terror war, hoards of Arab rioters invaded the tomb – which housed a synagogue and a yeshiva – ransacked it and burned it to the ground, while parading Jewish holy books and desecrating them. Local Muslims later declared the site as a mosque, as the IDF reduced the Jewish presence to a once-monthly visit.
Under previous agreements with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is required to protect Jewish holy sites under its control, and to allow secure access for Jewish worshipers.
However, in 2011 Yosef Livnat was murdered at Joseph’s Tomb by none other than PA policemen as he visited the holy site with fellow yeshiva students. Livnat was the nephew of former Minister Limor Livnat (Likud).
The site has often been the target of firebombs and massive riots. The most recent attempt to burn it down took place in late July.