Josephs Tomb is located in the heart of Nablus,
in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank. Conflicting views exist
as to whether or not the patriarch Joseph was buried there;
nevertheless, the tomb is recognized as a Jewish shrine, albeit a
minor one. According to Jewish tradition, Joseph was buried in the
biblical town of Shechem, which is near the present-day city of
Nablus. Some archeologists believe that the site is only a few
centuries old and may contain the remains of a Muslim sheikh named
Following the 1967
War, Israel regained access to the site and a small Jewish
seminary was built there in the 1980's. The site was also used as a
military outpost, and a number of soldiers were stationed there to
protect the seminary students and the site itself. Nablus was
returned to the Palestinians in 1995, but the Israelis retained
control over the site.
When violent clashes between Israelis and
Palestinians began in the West Bank in October 2000, six Palestinians
and one Israeli were killed in fighting around the tomb. The Israeli
army subsequently agreed to withdraw on October 7 and turn over
control of the site to the Palestinian police, who were supposed to
guard it. Instead, the Palestinian Police stood by as a mob ransacked
the site, burned books and destroyed reading stands; the mob also
burned down the army outpost. On that same day, an American-born
rabbi, who taught at the seminary, was found slain outside Nablus.
The Mayor of Nablus, Ghassan Shakaa, said that the
site would be repaired. Workers were seen fixing the damage, however,
they were also painting the top of the dome green - the color of
Islam. Workers say that they want to return the shrine to its former
appearance before 1967, but news reports indicated the Palestinians
were planning to build a mosque on the spot.
For Israelis, the destruction of a Jewish shrine
raised serious doubts as to whether the Palestinian
Authority would protect religious sites belonging to Jews and
Christians and guarantee access to them. Israel guarantees access to
all holy places under their control according to 1967
Law for the protection of the holy places.
Violence surrounding access to the Temple Mount stoked by leaders of Hamas and the PA sparked attacks on Joseph's Tomb during October 2015. A crowd of 100 Palestinians descended on the Tomb, throwing molotov cocktails and setting the area ablaze. In a rare display, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and ordered the damage be repaired.
Sources: Cohen, Richard. "Josephs
Post, (October 10, 2000).
Greenburg, Joel. "Palestinians destroy the
Israeli site that was the scene of many clashes." New
York Times, (October 8, 2000).
"Who is buried in embattled shrine: Joseph
or Muslim sheikh? CNN,
(October 11, 2000).
Rabinovitch, Ari. “Palestinians set fire to Jewish shrine; Israeli soldier stabbed,” Reuters, (October 16, 2015)