Joseph's Tomb

Joseph's Tomb

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Joseph's Tomb is a funerary monument located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, 325 yards northwest of Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well is a deep well hewn of solid rock that has been associated in religious tradition with Jacob for roughly two millennia...

, on the outskirts of the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 city of Nablus
Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

, near Tell Balāṭa
Tell Balata
Tell Balata is the site of the remains of an ancient city located in the Palestinian West Bank. The built-up area of Balata, a Palestinian village and suburb of Nablus, covers about one-third of the tell, and overlooks a vast plain to the east....

, the site of biblical Shechem
Shechem
Shechem was a Canaanite city mentioned in the Amarna letters, and is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as an Israelite city of the tribe of Manasseh and the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel...

. Biblical tradition identifies the general area of Shechem as the resting-place of the biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 patriarch
Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

, the eponymous ancestor of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his two sons Ephraim
Ephraim
Ephraim ; was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Ephraim was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

 and Manasseh
Manasseh (tribal patriarch)
Manasseh or Menashe was, according to the Book of Genesis, the first son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Manasseh was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

.

Joseph's tomb has been venerated throughout the ages by Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims. Post-biblical records regarding the location of Joseph's Tomb at this site date from the beginning of the 4th-century AD. The present structure, a small rectangular room with a cenotaph
Cenotaph
A cenotaph is an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been interred elsewhere. The word derives from the Greek κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion...

, dates from 1868, and is devoid of any trace of ancient building materials. While some scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen
Kenneth Kitchen
Kenneth Anderson Kitchen is Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, England...

  and James K.Hoffmeier still affirm the essential historicity of the biblical account of Joseph, many others, such as Donald B. Redford
Donald B. Redford
Donald B. Redford is a Canadian Egyptologist and archaeologist, currently Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is married to Susan Redford, who is also an Egyptologist currently teaching classes at the university...

, argue that the story itself has ‘no basis in fact’.

Modern scholarship has yet to determine whether or not the present cenotaph is to be identified with the ancient Biblical gravesite. No Jewish or Christian sources prior to the 5th century mention the tomb, and the structure originally erected over it appears to have been built by the Samaritans, for whom it was probably a sacred site.

At key points in its long history, Joseph's Tomb has witnessed intense sectarian conflict. Samaritans and Christians disputing access and title to the site in the early Byzantine period often engaged in violent clashes. After Israel captured the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 in 1967, Muslims were prohibited from worship at the shrine and it was gradually turned into a Jewish prayer room. Interreligious friction and conflict from competing Jewish and Muslim claims over the tomb became frequent. Falling under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

 (PNA) following the signing of the Oslo Accords
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

, it remained under IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 guard with Muslims prohibited from praying there. At the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Al-Aqsa Intifada
The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Oslo War, was the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000...

 in 2000, just after being handed over to the PNA, it was looted and razed. Following the reoccupation of Nablus during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

 in 2002, Jewish groups returned there intermittently. Recently the structure has been refurbished, with a new cupola installed, and visits by Jewish worshippers have resumed.

Biblical source and early religious traditions


The Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 provides four details regarding the traditions surrounding Joseph’s remains. The account in Genesis relates that, before his death, he had his brothers swear they would carry his bones out of Egypt to Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

. He is said then to have been embalmed placed in a coffin in Egypt In Exodus, we are told that Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 fulfilled the pledge by taking Joseph's bones with him when he left Egypt. In the Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

, Joseph’s bones are said to have been brought from Egypt by the Children of Israel and interred in Shechem.
The bones of Joseph, which the Children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, were buried in Shechem in a parcel of land Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

 bought from the sons of Hamor, father of Shechem, for a hundred pieces of silver (qeśîṭâ).


The Bible does not identify a specific site in Shechem where his bones were laid to rest. The Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba is a religious text from Judaism's classical period. It is a midrash comprising a collection of ancient rabbinical homiletical interpretations of the Book of Genesis ....

, a Jewish text written ca.400-450 C.E., states that the burial site in Shechem is one of three that the nations of the world cannot ridicule Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and say "you have stolen them." it being purchased by Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

. The rabbis also suggest that Joseph instructed his brothers to bury him in Shechem since it was from there he was taken and sold into slavery. Other Jewish sources have him buried either in Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

, or, according to an aggadic tradition, have him interred at Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 according to his own wishes. The ambiguity is reflected in Islamic tradition which points to Nablus as being the authentic site. though some early Islamic geographers identified the Cave of the Patriarchs
Cave of the Patriarchs
The Cave of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah , is known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or Ibrahimi Mosque ....

 in Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 as housing his tomb. The Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 itself does not mention details of Joseph's burial. Ali of Herat (1119), Yaqut (1229) and Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

 (1369) all conserve both the Nablus and Hebron traditions. Later Muslim chroniclers also mention a third site purporting to be the authentic tomb, near Beit Ijza
Beit Ijza
Beit Ijza is a village in the West Bank with an area of 2526 dunams. Located approximately six miles from Jerusalem, it posted a population of 671 in 2006.-External references:...

. The Hebron tradition is also reflected in some medieval Christian sources, such as the account by Srewulf (CE 1102) who says that 'the bones of Joseph were buried more humbly than the rest, as it were at the extremity of the castle.'

Modern scholarship on the narrative of Joseph’s bones


Though the traditional biblical date for the narrative of Joseph life’s life and death places him in Egypt in the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty
Twelfth dynasty of Egypt
The twelfth dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties XI, XIII and XIV under the group title Middle Kingdom.-Rulers:Known rulers of the twelfth dynasty are as follows :...

, roughly comparable to the Hyksos
Hyksos
The Hyksos were an Asiatic people who took over the eastern Nile Delta during the twelfth dynasty, initiating the Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt....

 invasion of Egypt, contemporary scholarship no longer accepts such a remote dating. The figure of Joseph itself is often taken to be a ‘personification of a tribe’, rather than an historic person.

According to the Bible, Joseph was embalmed and buried in a coffin in Egypt, after having his people swear to carry his bones away. Later midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 identify his first entombment in a royal mausoleum, or as cast into the Nile. Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 is said to have gathered the bones and taken them with him during the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 from Egypt, using magic to raise the coffin, a tradition repeated by Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, who specifies that they were buried in Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 at that time. Regarding his burial in Canaan, from Joshua is it evident that the portion Joseph received was an allotment near Shechem, not the town itself.

The majority of contemporary scholars believe the historicity of the events in the Joseph story cannot be demonstrated. In the wake of scholars like Hermann Gunkel
Hermann Gunkel
Hermann Gunkel was a German Protestant Old Testament scholar. He is noted for his contribution to form criticism and the study of oral tradition in biblical texts. He was an outstanding representative of the "History of Religion School."...

, Hugo Gressmann
Hugo Gressmann
Hugo Gressmann was born on March 21, 1877 in Mölln . He was a prominent Old Testament scholar and a friend and associate of the eminent scholar Hermann Gunkel.-Gattungsgeschichte Method:...

 and Gerhard von Rad
Gerhard von Rad
Gerhard von Rad was a German Lutheran pastor, University professor and an Old Testament scholar.With the experience of two World Wars, the German-speaking world began to turn "anti-Old Testament"...

, who identified the story of Joseph as primarily a literary composition, it is now widely considered to belong to the genre of romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

, or the novella
Novella
A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative usually longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000...

. As a novella it is read as reworking legends and myths, many of them, especially the motifs of his reburial in Canaan, associated with the Egyptian god Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

, though some compare the burial of his bones at Shechem with the disposal of Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

’s bones at Delphi
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

. The reworked legends and folklore were probably inserted into the developing textual tradition of the Bible between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. Most scholars place its composition in a genre that flourished in the Persian period of the Exile.

For Schenke, the tradition of his burial at Shechem can only be understood as a secondary, israelitic historical interpretation woven around a more ancient Canaanite shrine in that area. Wright has indeed argued that, ‘the patriarch Joseph was not an Israelite hero who became Egyptianised, but an Egyptian divinity who was Hebraised.’

Schenke's hypothesis


Hans-Martin Schenke, starting from an analysis of , in which Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the town Sychar, made an extensive analysis of the ancient sources, together with an examination of the site. The curiosity of the Gospel text for scholars lies in the mention of an otherwise unattested town in the field, and the failure of the text to refer Joseph's Tomb, despite mentioning the field Jacob allotted to Joseph, and Jacob's well. In Schenke's view, from the beginning of the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

 down to the Ist. century C.E., when the author of John's gospel was presumably writing, the grave commemorating Joseph stood by Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well is a deep well hewn of solid rock that has been associated in religious tradition with Jacob for roughly two millennia...

. This grave was shifted, together with the sacred tree and Jacob's field, sometimes between that date and the earliest testimony we have in the Bordeaux itinerary
Itinerarium Burdigalense
The Itinerarium Burdigalense is the oldest known Christian itinerarium, written by an anonymous pilgrim from Burdigala...

 in 333 CE., which locates it elsewhere, by Shechem/Tell Balāṭa.

Pilgrim accounts



The Itinerarium Burdigalense
Itinerarium Burdigalense
The Itinerarium Burdigalense is the oldest known Christian itinerarium, written by an anonymous pilgrim from Burdigala...

 (333 AD) notes: ‘At the foot of the mountain itself, is a place called Sichem. Here is a tomb in which Joseph is laid, in the parcel of ground which Jacob his father gave to him." Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 in the 4th-century records in his Onomasticon: "Suchem, city of Jacob now deserted. The place is pointed out in the suburb of Neapolis
Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

. There the tomb of Joseph is pointed out nearby." Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

, writing of Saint Paula
Saint Paula
Saint Paula was an ancient Roman saint and early Desert Mother. A member of one of the richest "senatorial" families which frivolously claimed descent from Agamemnon, Paula was the daughter of Blesilla and Rogatus, from the great clan of the Furii Camilli...

's sojourn in Palestine writes that 'turning off the way (from Jacob's well), she saw the tombs of the twelve patriarchs' Jerome himself, together with the Byzantine monk George Syncellus
George Syncellus
George Syncellus was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic. He had lived many years in Palestine as a monk, before coming to Constantinople, where he was appointed syncellus to Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople...

, who had lived many years in Palestine, wrote that all twelve patriarchs, Joseph included, were buried at Sychem.

Both Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 and Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 ordered a search for Joseph’s bones, much to the utter dismay of the Samaritan community. An imperial commission was dispatched to retrieve the bones of the Patriarchs around 415 CE, and on failing to obtain them at Hebron, sought to at least secure Joseph’s bones from Shechem. No gravestone marked the exact site, possibly because the Samaritans had removed one to avoid Christian interference. The officials had to excavate the general area where graves abound and, on finding an intact marble sepulchre beneath an empty coffin, concluded that it must contain Joseph’s bones, and sent the sarcophagus to Byzantium, where it was incorporated into Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

.
Jerome reports that apparently the Christians had intended to remove Joseph's bones to their city, but a column of fire rose skyward from the tomb scaring them away. The Samaritans subsequently covered the tomb with earth rendering it inaccessible.

Christian pilgrim and archdeacon Theodosius (518–520) in his De situ terrae sanctae mentions that 'close to Jacob's Well are the remains of Joseph the Holy'. The Madaba Mosaic Map
Madaba Map
The Madaba Map is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East. Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem...

 (6th-century) designates a site somewhat problematically with the legend - 'Joseph's' (τὸ τοῦ Ὶωσήφ) - where the usual adjective 'holy' (hagios) accompanying mentions of saints and their shrines is lacking.

Crusader and medieval sources generally are, according to Hans-Martin Schenke, highly misleading regarding exactly where the tomb was situated. He concluded that in the Middle Ages, as earlier, various groups (Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Moslems) at different periods identified different things in different places all as Joseph’s tomb Sometimes Balata
Balata al-Balad
Balata al-Balad is a Palestinian village in the Nablus Governorate in the northeastern West Bank, located east of Nablus.-Etymology:The village's name is Balata, the name of an ancient Arab village, which was preserved by local residents...

, with its spring, seems indicated, as in the following two examples, which identify the tomb not as a structure, but as something by a spring and under a tree. It was evidently a site for Mulsim pilgrimage at that time.

In 1173 the Persian traveller al-Harawi
Ali ibn abi bakr al-Harawi
Ali ibn Abi Bakr al-Harawi was an early thirteenth century Persian traveller originally from Herat, located in Afghanistan. Born in Mosul, Iraq he travelled far and wide and died in Aleppo, Syria in a fort built for him....

 paid homage at the tomb, and wrote:
There is also near Nâbulus the spring of Al Khudr (Elias), and the field of Yûsuf as Sadik (Joseph); further, Joseph is buried at the foot of the tree at this place.’


Around the year 1225, Yaqut al-Hamawi
Yaqut al-Hamawi
Yāqūt ibn-'Abdullah al-Rūmī al-Hamawī) was an Islamic biographer and geographer renowned for his encyclopedic writings on the Muslim world. "al-Rumi" refers to his Greek descent; "al-Hamawi" means that he is from Hama, Syria, and ibn-Abdullah is a reference to his father's name, Abdullah...

 wrote:
There is here a spring called ‘Ain al Khudr. Yûsuf (Joseph) as Sadik –peace be on him! -was buried here, and his tomb is well known, lying under the tree.

as did Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela was a medieval Jewish traveler who visited Europe, Asia, and Africa in the 12th century. His vivid descriptions of western Asia preceded those of Marco Polo by a hundred years...

—who wrote that the Samaritans in Nablus were in possession of it. William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

 describes it as overlaid with white marble, next to the mausolea of his brothers. Menachem ben Peretz of Hebron (1215) writes that in Shechem he saw the tomb of Joseph son of Jacob with two marble pillars next to it—one at its head and another at its foot—and a low stone wall surrounding it. Ishtori Haparchi (1322) places the tombstone of Joseph 450 meters north of Balāta, while Alexander de Ariosti (1463) and Francesco Suriano (1485) associate it with the church over Jacob’s well. Samuel bar Simson (1210), Jacob of Paris (1258), the Spanish pilgrim Ishak Chelo (1334) and Johannes Poloner (1422) locate it by Nablus. Gabriel Muffel of Nuremberg discerns a tomb to Joseph in a monument to the west of Nablus, halfway between that city and Sebaste
Sebaste
Sebaste was a common placename in classical Antiquity. Sebaste was the Greek equivalent of the Latin Augusta. Ancient towns by the name sought to honor Augustus or a later Roman emperor.- Places :* Elaiussa Sebaste in Mersin Province, Turkey...

. Mandeville
John Mandeville
"Jehan de Mandeville", translated as "Sir John Mandeville", is the name claimed by the compiler of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a book account of his supposed travels, written in Anglo-Norman French, and first circulated between 1357 and 1371.By aid of translations into many other languages...

 (1322) and Maundrell
Henry Maundrell
Henry Maundrell was an academic at Oxford University and later a Church of England clergyman who served from 20 December 1695 as chaplain to the Levant Company in Syria. His Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter A.D...

 (1697), among others, also mention its existence, although it is debatable as to whether any of these reports refer to the currently recognised location. Samuel ben Samson
Samuel ben Samson
Samuel ben Samson was a rabbi who lived in France and made a pilgrimage to Palestine in 1210, visiting a number of villages and cities there, including Jerusalem. Rabbi Jonathan ha Cohen, said to be "the most influential and wealthy French Jew of his time," was ben Samson's travelling companion,...

 (1210) appears to place the tomb at Shiloh. Mandeville
John Mandeville
"Jehan de Mandeville", translated as "Sir John Mandeville", is the name claimed by the compiler of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a book account of his supposed travels, written in Anglo-Norman French, and first circulated between 1357 and 1371.By aid of translations into many other languages...

 (1322) locates it 'nigh beside' Nablus as does Maundrell
Henry Maundrell
Henry Maundrell was an academic at Oxford University and later a Church of England clergyman who served from 20 December 1695 as chaplain to the Levant Company in Syria. His Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter A.D...

 (1697), but the indications are vague. Maundrell describes his sepulchre as located in a small mosque just by Nablus, which does not fit the present location.

Although the Koran does not mention details of Joseph's burial, Islamic tradition points to Nablus as being the authentic site. However, some early Islamic geographers identified the Cave of the Patriarchs
Cave of the Patriarchs
The Cave of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah , is known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or Ibrahimi Mosque ....

 in Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

 as housing his tomb. While Ali of Herat (1119), Yaqut (1229) and Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

 (1369) all report the Hebron traditions, they also mention the existence of a tomb of Joseph at Nablus. The phenomenon of citing inconsistent locations for such venerated personalities is common in Middle Eastern religion. Later Muslim chroniclers even mention a third site purporting to be the authentic tomb, near Beit Ijza
Beit Ijza
Beit Ijza is a village in the West Bank with an area of 2526 dunams. Located approximately six miles from Jerusalem, it posted a population of 671 in 2006.-External references:...

.

19th century accounts


William Cooke Taylor (1838) describes the biblical parcel of ground Jacob gave to Joseph as situated on plain of Mukhna, and identifies the tomb as an oriental weli structure at the entrance to the valley of Nablus, to the right near the base of Mt Ebal. The sarcophagus, he suggests, lies underneath or somewhere else in the vicinity of this plain, and comments:
'The present monument... is a place of resort, not only for Jews and Christians, but Mohammedans and Samaritans; all of whom concur in the belief that it stands on the vertiable spot where the patriarch was buried.'

In 1839, the Jewish traveller Loewe based his identification of the tomb as near Jacob's Well by a topographical argument. Scripture, he argued, calls the place neither an emek (valley) nor a shephelah
Shephelah
The Shephelah is a designation usually applied to the region in south-central Israel of 10-15 km of low hills between the central Mount Hebron and the coastal plains of Philistia within the area of the Judea, at an altitude of 120-450 metres above sea level. The area is fertile, and a temperate...

(plain), but a 'portion of field' (chelkat hasadeh), and concluded: 'in the whole of Palestine there is not such another plot to be found, a dead level, without the least hollow or swelling in a circuit of two hours.'
In 1839, it was recorded that Jews frequently visited the tomb and that many inscriptions in Hebrew were visible on the walls. The site was "kept very neat and in good repair by the bounty of Jews who visited it."

John Wilson (1847) writes that the tomb lies about two or three hundred yards to the north of Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well is a deep well hewn of solid rock that has been associated in religious tradition with Jacob for roughly two millennia...

, across the valley. He describes it as 'a small solid erection in the form of a wagon roof, over what is supposed to be the patriarch’s grave, with a small pillar or altar at each of its extremities, sometimes called the tombs of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the middle of an enclosure without a covering. Many visitors names, in the Hebrew
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

 and Samaritan characters, are written on the walls of this enclosure.' One of the inscriptions is said to intimate the tomb's repair by a Jew from Egypt, Elijah son of Meir, around 1749. Wilson adds that 'The Jews of Nablus take upon themselves the duty of keeping the tomb in order. They applied to us for a subscription to aid in making some repairs and we complied with their request'. These Hebrew and Samaritan inscriptions were still visible on the white plastered walls as late as 1980, as were small lamps in an internal recess, probably donated by Jews during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rabbi Joseph Schwarz (1850) who had lived in Palestine for 16 years, identified the village of Abulnita, 'about 2 English miles east of Shechem', as the site 'where Joseph lies buried'. Western travellers to Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 in the 19th century described their impressions of the site in travelogues. John Ross Browne
John Ross Browne
John Ross Browne , often called J. Ross Browne, date of birth sometimes given as 1917, was an Irish-born American traveler, artist and writer.-Biography:...

 (1853) writes: 'We also visited the reputed site of Joseph's Tomb. A rude stone building covers the pretended sepulcher; but the best authorities deny that there was any evidence that Joseph was buried here.' Howard Crosby also visited the site during 1851. He designated it, 'the so-called tomb of Joseph,' describing it as 'a plain white Santon's tomb, or Wely
Wely
Wely is a village in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is a part of the municipality of Neder-Betuwe, and lies about 8 km south of Wageningen....

, such as is everywhere seen in Mohammedan
Mohammedan
Mohammedan is a Western term for a follower of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. As an archaic English language term, it is used as both a noun and an adjective, meaning belonging or relating to, either Muhammad or the religion, doctrines, institutions and practices that he established...

 countries, excepting that this one is roofless, and consequently lacks the usual white dome. In the interior, a vine grows from a corner, and spreads upon a trellis over the tomb, forming a pleasant bower.' Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy and Edouard de Warren (1853) describe it as 'a small Mussulman oualy (weli, i.e. chapel) [...] said to be the tomb of Joseph,' noting it was just to the east of what the Arabs called Bir-Yakub, Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well
Jacob's Well is a deep well hewn of solid rock that has been associated in religious tradition with Jacob for roughly two millennia...

. Hackett noted in 1857 that the tomb is placed diagonally to the walls, instead of parallel, and found 'the walls of the interior covered with the names of pilgrims, representing almost every land and language; though the Hebrew character was the most prominent one.' Thomson noted in 1883 that 'the entire building is fast crumbling to ruin, presenting a most melancholy spectacle.' Being exposed to the weather, 'it has no pall or votive offering of any kind, nor any marks of respect such as are seen at the sepulchres of the most insignificant Muslim saints.' During the late 19th-century, sources report the Jewish custom of burning small articles such as gold lace, shawls or handkerchiefs, in the two low pillars at either end of the tomb. This was done in 'memory of the patriarch who sleeps beneath'.

Detailed survey by Conder, 1878-89




Claude R. Conder provides a detailed description of the site in his works Tent Work in Palestine (1878), Survey of Western Palestine (1881) and Palestine (1889).
The enclosure
It is located on the road-side from Balata to ‘Askar, at the end of a row of fine fig trees. The open courtyard surrounding the tomb measures about 18 feet (5.5 m) square. The plastered, whitewash
Whitewash
Whitewash, or calcimine, kalsomine, calsomine, or lime paint is a very low-cost type of paint made from slaked lime and chalk . Various other additives are also used...

ed walls, about 1 foot (0.3048 m) thick, are in good repair and stand 10 feet (3 m) feet high. Entrance to the courtyard is from the north through the ruin of a little square domed building. There are two Hebrew inscriptions on the south wall. An additional English inscription notes that the structure was entirely rebuilt at the expense of the English consul at Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 by early 1868.
The tomb itself measures 6 feet (1.8 m) feet long and stands 4 feet (1.2 m) feet high. It consisted of a long narrow plastered block with an arched roof, having a pointed cross section. The tomb is not in line with the walls of the courtyard, which have a bearing of 202º, nor is it in the middle of the enclosure, being nearest to the west wall. Two short plastered pedestals with shallow cup-shaped hollows at their tops stand at the head and foot of the tomb. The hollows are blackened by fire due to the Jewish custom of burning offerings of shawls, silks or gold lace on the pillar altars. Both Jews and Samaritans burn oil lamps and incense in the pillar cavity.


Conder also questions the fact that the tomb points north to south, inconsistent with Muslim tombs north of Mecca. This fact did not however diminish Muslim veneration of the shrine:

"The tomb points approximately north and south, thus being at right angles to the direction of Moslem tombs north of Mecca. How the Mohammedans explain this disregard of orientation in so respected a Prophet as "our Lord Joseph," I have never heard; perhaps the rule is held to be only established since the time of Mohammed. The veneration in which the shrine is held by the Moslem peasantry is, at all events, not diminished by this fact."

Confusion over competing shrine



In the course pin-pointing the location of the tomb, the Reverend H.B. Hackett in Sir William Smith
William Smith (lexicographer)
Sir William Smith Kt. was a noted English lexicographer.-Early life:Born at Enfield in 1813 of Nonconformist parents, he was originally destined for a theological career, but instead was articled to a solicitor. In his spare time he taught himself classics, and when he entered University College...

's A dictionary of the Bible (1863) mentions the existence of two tombs bearing an association to Joseph in Nablus. In addition to the one close to the well, (location of Conder's survey), he describes another exclusively Muslim tomb in the vicinity, about a quarter of a mile up the valley on the slope of Mt. Gerizim. He is not able to conclude which of the tombs is that of the biblical Joseph, but cites Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley was an English churchman, Dean of Westminster, known as Dean Stanley. His position was that of a Broad Churchman and he was the author of works on Church History.-Life and times:...

 (1856) that at the Muslim tomb "a later Joseph is also commemorated at the sanctuary." Stanley himself writes that the little mosque on Gerizim's north-eastern slopes is known by various names including Allon Moreh (Oak of Allon), Aharon Moreh (Ark of Moreh) and Sheykh al-Amad (Saint of the Pillar) which he suggests commemorate biblcal traditions. Stanley also quotes Buckingham, who mentions that the Samaritans maintain that the alternative tomb belongs to a certain Rabbi Joseph of Nablus. John Mills (1864) writes that claims of the tomb belonging to Rabbi Joseph of Nablus are unfounded, the structure being called by the Samaritans "The Pillar" in commemoration of the pillar set up by Joshua
Joshua
Joshua , is a minor figure in the Torah, being one of the spies for Israel and in few passages as Moses's assistant. He turns to be the central character in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Joshua...

. Mills rather identifies the supposed rabbi's tomb with a mosque named after a Muslim saint, Sheikh el-Amud ("Saint of the Pillar"), but further claims that the association is 'only a modern invention of the Mohammedans'. A book published in 1894, also questions the existence of a tomb to Rabbi Joseph of Nablus, calling it 'a Mohammedan legend, imposed upon inquisitive travellers by unscrupulous guides' since 'the present Samaritans known of no Joseph's tomb but the generally accepted one'.

By the 1860s, many Jews and Muslims had come to see the limestone structure as housing the tomb of the biblical Joseph, and it was referred to in Arabic as "Qabr en-Nabi Yūsuf" ("Tomb of the Prophet Joseph"). A decorative cloth photographed in 1917, draped over the tomb itself, asserted this perception. Palestinians are also said to regard the site as the burial place of Yūsuf Dawiqat, an Islamic sheikh
Sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

. It has been claimed that this tradition is an innovation in response to Israeli control of the site since the 1970s.

After 1967


Before 1967, the tomb was still located in a field in the village of Balata on the outskirts of Nablus. Local residents apparently believed the structure entombed a 19th-century cleric who was reputed to have healed the sick by reciting Koranic verses. Although the building did not function as a mosque, it was used by childless couples who would pray there for children, and young boys would take their first ritual haircut inside. After the capture of Nablus and the rest of the Palestinian territories
Palestinian territories
The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

 in the 1967 war, Jewish settlers began to frequent the site, and by 1975, Muslims were prohibited from visiting the site. After a settler was stabbed in Nablus in 1983, other settlers demonstrated by taking over Joseph's tomb for three days in a bid to force the government's hand into using an iron fist. In the mid-1980s a yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

 named Od Yosef Chai, (Joseph Still Lives), affiliated with some of the more militant Jewish settlements, and headed by Yitzhak Ginsburg, was built at the site beside an Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 (IDF) military outpost, apparently on the model of settler success in establishing a presence at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

. An initial attempt in 1994 to transform the site into a Jewish religious centre failed . Shulamit Aloni
Shulamit Aloni
Shulamit Aloni is an Israeli politician and left-wing activist. She is a prominent member of the Israeli peace camp, founded the Ratz party and was leader of the Meretz party and served as Minister of Education from 1992 to 1993.-Biography:...

, minister for culture and education in the Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

 government, outraged religious activists at the time by asserting, on the basis of archeological evidence, that the site was only 200 years old, and the tomb that of Sheikh Yūsuf (Dawiqat). Her views were challenged by Benny Katzover who replied that she had been misled by archeologists, and he had experts to back the traditional ascription. In 1997 Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 scrolls were brought in, the prayer niche facing
Qibla
The Qiblah , also transliterated as Qibla, Kiblah or Kibla, is the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during salah...

 Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 was covered, and the site was declared a synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 and yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

. Attaching the religious tradition surrounding the story of Joseph to the site, the settlers received protection from the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 to transform this place of Muslim worship into one of their own. A curfew
Curfew
A curfew is an order specifying a time after which certain regulations apply. Examples:# An order by a government for certain persons to return home daily before a certain time...

 lasting 24 hours, a form of house arrest, was once imposed by the IDF on Nablus's 120,000 inhabitants to allow a group settlers and 2 Likud
Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 members to pray at the site. On the traditional anniversary of Joseph's death on the 27th of Tammuz, hundreds of Jews would arrive at the site.

On December 12, 1995, in accordance with the Oslo Accords
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

, jurisdiction of Nablus was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

, though Israel retained control of several religious sites, one of which was Joseph’s Tomb, thus sanctioning the fraught situation. Settler apprehensions that the area might be returned to Palestinians worked to enhance the status of Joseph's tomb as a centre of pilgrimage. The Interim Agreement
Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also known as the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, the Interim Agreement, Oslo 2, Oslo II, and Taba, was a key and complex agreement governing several aspects of the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip and the West Bank.-History:It...

 stipulated that:'Both sides shall respect and protect the religious rights of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Samaritans concerning the protection and free access to the Holy sites as well as freedom of worship and practice.' The tomb, resembling a fortified military post with a small functioning yeshiva, became a frequent flash point. On September 24, 1996, after the opening of an exit for the Hasmonean Tunnel
Western Wall Tunnel
The Western Wall Tunnel is an underground tunnel exposing the full length of the Western Wall. The tunnel is adjacent to the Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel. While the open-air portion of the Western Wall is approximately long, the majority of its...

  under the Ummariya madrasah
Madrasah
Madrasah is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious...

, which Palestinians interpreted as a signal Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 was sending that Israel was to be the sole sovereign of Jerusalem, the PNA called for a general strike and a wave of protests broke out throughout the West Bank. In clashes, 7 Palestinians were killed and 253 wounded in the West Bank while six Israeli soldiers were killed at the tomb, and parts of the adjacent yeshiva were ransacked. Jews continued to worship at the site under limited protection of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), often dressed as civilians easily mistaken for settlers.

Over the year and a half between 1999 and 2000, the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

, seconded by the Shin Bet and the Israeli Border Police, had asked the government to evacuate the tomb. In September 2000, in the wake of Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

’s controversial visit to the Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

, the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Al-Aqsa Intifada
The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Oslo War, was the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000...

 broke out, and Nablus turned into a hot spot, in part after its governor’s son was shot dead during a clash with Israeli soldiers. The Palestinians targeted the site, burning the yeshiva to the ground, incinerating its books and painting the dome green, an act which led to retaliation with Jewish vandalism of three mosques in Tiberias and Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

. After the death of an Israeli border policeman the head of the IDF’s southern command, Brigadier-General Yom-Tov Samia
Yom-Tov Samia
Maj. Gen. Dr Yom Tov Samia is the former head of the Israel Defense Forces' Southern Command from January 2001 to December 2003, ending 29 years of military service as a Major General. Dr...

, threatened to resign if the government kept control of the tomb, since retaining control of it was ‘patently illegal.’ Prime Minister Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

  eventually complied with the request and the site was handed over to the Palestinian police on October 7, 2000. Israeli newspapers framed the return of the site as a humiliating defeat for the nation. The tomb was pillaged and torched by Palestinian protesters hours after its evacuation. The morning after the bullet-riddled body of rabbi Hillel Lieberman of Elon Moreh
Elon Moreh
Elon Moreh is an Israeli settlement located in the Samarian hills of the West Bank northeast of Nablus on the slopes of the Mount Kabir ridge....

, a cousin of Senator Joseph Lieberman, was found on the outskirts of Nablus, where he had gone to check damage to the tomb. Joseph’s Tomb embodied a key Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 theme: the return from exile to one’s homeland, and the Palestinian assault has been interpreted as challenging the credibility of claims to the site. The PA began to repair it the next day. Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi
Hanan Ashrawi
Hanan Daoud Khalil Ashrawi is a Palestinian legislator, activist, and scholar. She was a protégé and later colleague and close friend of Edward Said. Ashrawi was an important leader during the First Intifada, served as the official spokesperson for the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East...

 claimed that Judaism's connection with the tomb was 'fabricated'. The mayor of Nablus Ghassan Shakaa
Ghassan Shakaa
Ghassan Shakaa is the former mayor of Nablus, one of the largest cities in the West Bank. Former Nablus mayor Bassam Shaka is his uncle. Shakaa was appointed to his position by Yasser Arafat. His brother was assassinated by still an unknown group...

 was reported as saying Jewish worshippers would not be permitted to pray there until an international organization or third party determines whether the site is holy to Moslems or Jews.

Israeli military officials said the Palestinians intended to build a mosque on the ruins of the site. The statement came after workers repairing the tomb painted the site's dome green, the colour of Islam. A Palestinian Authority spokesman denied the allegations and said that Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

 had ordered the renovations and for the synagogue to be rebuilt. Ghassan Shakaa, the mayor, claimed that city officials simply wanted to return the building to the way it looked before it came into Israeli hands in the 1967 Mideast war. Under intense U.S. and international pressure the dome was repainted white.

Since 2000



After the events of October 2000, the IDF prohibited Israeli access to the tomb. As a result of Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

, the Nablus was reoccupied by the IDF in April 2002, with severe damage to the historic core of the city, where 64 heritage buildings suffered serious damage or were destroyed. Some Breslov
Breslov (Hasidic dynasty)
Breslov is a branch of Hasidic Judaism founded by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism...

 hasidim
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

 and others began to take advantage of the new circumstances to visit the site clandestinely under the cover of darkness, evading army and police checkpoints. and Joseph’s tomb was once more open to visits. In May 2002, Israeli soldiers mistakenly opened fire on a convoy of settlers taking advantage of an ongoing incursion in Nablus to visit the tomb. Seven settlers were arrested by the army for illegally entering a combat zone. As a result of Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

, the tomb was retaken by the IDF and shortly afterwards, in response to numerous requests, they renewed guarded tours of the tomb. One day every month at midnight as many as 800 visitors were allowed to pray at the gravesite. These visits were designed to prevent unauthorized and unprotected clandestine visits, mainly by Breslav Hassidim. However, in October, citing security reasons, Israel re-imposed a ban on Jewish pilgrims obtaining special permits and travelling to the tomb.

In February 2003 it was reported in the Jerusalem Post that the grave had been pounded with hammers and that the tree at its entrance had been broken; car parts and trash littered the tomb which had a "huge hole in its dome." Bratslav
Breslov (Hasidic dynasty)
Breslov is a branch of Hasidic Judaism founded by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism...

 leader Aaron Klieger notified and lobbied government ministers about the desecration, but the IDF said it had no plans to secure or guard the site, claiming such action would be too costly.

In February 2007, thirty five Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 members (MKs) wrote to the army asking them to open Joseph's Tomb to Jewish visitors for prayer. In May 2007, Breslov hasidim visited the site for the first time in two years and later on that year, a group of hasidim found that the gravesite had been cleaned up by the Palestinians. In the past few years the site had suffered from neglect and its appearance had deteriorated, with garbage being dumped and tires being burned there.

In early 2008, a group of MKs wrote a letter to the Prme Minister asking that the tomb be renovated: "The tombstone is completely shattered, and the holy site is desecrated in an appalling manner, the likes of which we have not seen in Israel or anywhere else in the world." In February, it was reported that Israel would officially ask the Palestinian Authority to carry out repairs at the tomb, but in response, vandals set tires on fire inside the tomb. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas , also known by the kunya Abu Mazen , has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since 11 November 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority on 15 January 2005 on the Fatah ticket.Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally...

 declared the tomb a Muslim holy site, and downplayed reports of joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on restoring the tomb. In December 2008, Jewish workers funded by anonymous donors painted the blackened walls and re-built the shattered stone marker covering the grave.

As of 2009, monthly visits to the tomb in bullet-proof vehicles under heavy IDF protection are organised by the Yitzhar
Yitzhar
Yitzhar is an Israeli settlement located in the West Bank south of the city of Nablus just off Route 60, north of the Tapuach Junction. The predominantly Orthodox Jewish community with a population of 895 is within the municipal jurisdiction of the Shomron Regional Council...

 based organization Shechem Ehad. In late April 2009, a group of Jewish worshipers found the headstone smashed and swastikas painted on the walls, as well as boot prints on the grave itself.

In August 2010, it was reported that the IDF and the Palestinian Authority reached an agreement on renovating the site. Israel's chief rabbis, Yona Metzger
Yona Metzger
Yona Metzger is the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. His counterpart is Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel since their appointments in 2003.-Background:...

 and Shlomo Amar
Shlomo Amar
Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar has been the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Rishon LeZion since his appointment in 2003. His colleague is Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel....

, visited and prayed at the tomb along with 500 other worshippers, the first such visit by a high-ranking Israeli delegation in 10 years.

On April 24, 2011, Palestinian Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

 police officers opened fire on three cars of Israeli worshipers after they finished praying at Joseph's Tomb. An Israeli citizen was killed and three others were wounded. The fatality was identified as Ben-Joseph Livnat, 25, the newpher of Culture Minister Limor Livnat
Limor Livnat
is an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Likud, and as the country's Minister of Culture & Sport.-Biography:Born in Haifa, Livnat is the only member of Knesset not to have a secondary education...

. Both the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 and Palestinian Authority ordered investigations into the incident. According to an initial investigation, three cars full of Israelis entered the compound of Joseph's Tomb without coordination with the Israeli military or Palestinian security forces and then tried to break through a Palestinian Authority police checkpoint. The investigation found that the Palestinian police officers had acted "maliciously" and with the intent to harm the Jewish worshipers. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz added that they fired "without justification and with no immediate threat to their lives."

External links