Hundreds of Jews visited the Tomb of Joseph adjacent to the Biblical city of Shechem (Nablus) on Wednesday night, accompanied by a strong IDF contingent. Worshippers arrived in a convoy of heavily guarded armored buses, risking the danger to petition the tzaddik (holy man) buried there, to pray for powerful issues.
Rabbi Levi Sudri, an award-winning Bible expert, made the journey to Joseph’s Tomb to pray for a specific tikkun (fixing) that he believes is essential to our generation: Sexuality.
“Joseph was the epitome of sexual purity,” Rabbi Sudri told Breaking Israel News. “This was demonstrated by his restraint with the wife of Potiphar.”
“It was his control of his sexual desire that gave him the ability to rule over all of Egypt,” Rabbi Sudri said. “It is an essential trait for a leader but we see this trait as being particularly problematic among leaders today.”
Sudri also noted an aspect of the location that is of particular interest in current events.
“Shechem was the place where Dina was raped,” Rabbi Sudri noted.
Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force. Being strongly drawn to Dina daughter of Yaakov, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly. Genesis 34:2-3
“That is why Joseph was buried here: to fix the power of sexuality for the entire world,” Rabbi Sudri said. He noted that the site is the target of near-constant vandalism including incidents of arson which severely damaged the site.
“The Muslims do not relate to sexual purity,” Rabbi Sudri said. “They prefer to burn the site. So long as they rule over Joseph’s Tomb and do not allow men and women who work on this trait to pray here, this will remain broken in the world.”
Rabbi Sudri noted how the incident of Shechem raping Dina was reflected in the recent #metoo movement in which many women related being sexually abused in the workplace.
“Until purity and prayer is returned to the site, rape will continue to be confused with love,” Rabbi Sudri warned. “Unfortunately, Israel is treating the site as if they have already surrendered it to the Arabs. This is like selling Joseph into slavery yet again.”
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the Rabbi Of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, noted an additional basis for the conflict over Joseph’s Tomb.
“The first stage of the Messiah comes from the House of Joseph,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “By preventing Jews from praying at the site, the Arabs are delaying the completion of that aspect of the Messianic process, which is the practical settling of the land of Israel.”
Berger also noted that denying Jewish ownership of Shechem was listed as an egregious denial of the Jewish connection to the Land.
“The sages say in the Talmud that there are three places in the land of Israel that the Bible specifically describes as being purchased by the Jews: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Shechem,” Rabbi Berger said.
“These places can never be claimed to have been stolen,” Rabbi Berger said. “It is most noteworthy that these are the specific cities the Palestinians claim as their native homeland.”
Eliyahu McLean, founder of Abrahamic Reunion, an apolitical organization that brings together Christians, Muslims, and Jews in prayer, also went to Joseph’s Tomb to pray. He described the harrowing journey to the site. Approximately 10 buses left Jerusalem at nine in the evening. At one point, the people were ordered by an officer to disembark so as not to attract Arab gunfire.
Mclean said he made the precarious journey to Joseph’s Tomb to pray for “deliverance and guidance from the holy prophet,” a subject near and dear to his heart.
“I pray for the day when instead of an army escort, we can have an army of peace,” Mclean told Breaking Israel News. “I pray that my Muslim friend from Nablus will meet me with a box of candies and I can shake his hand. I pray that we can live without the fear and separation. But unfortunately this is the reality right now.”
McLean has held multi-faith prayer sessions on Mount Bental to pray for the benefit of Syrians suffering in the civil war just across the border from Israel. He also organizes a “Jerusalem Hug,” a human chain around the walls of the Old City. But praying at Joseph’s Tomb is necessarily religiously segregated and raises deep disputes among the religions.
“Joseph is held in high esteem by Islam and his story is told in great detail in the Koran but according to the Palestinians, Joseph is actually buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron,” Mclean explained.
This narrative contradicts the Biblical account in which Joseph died in Egypt but was embalmed so that his remains could be brought back for burial in Israel.
The bones of Yosef, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Yaakov had bought for a hundred kesita from the children of Hamor, Shechem‘s father, and which had become a heritage of the Josephites. Joshua 24:32
“Muslims claim this site as the burial place of Sheikh Yousef Dweikat, a local religious figure,” Mclean explained. “Of course, it is not the religious Jewish narrative, but I have to share all narratives.”
When asked why the Palestinians would attempt to destroy a building they believe marks the burial site of one of their holy men, Mclean shrugged, unable to answer.
The site stands between twin mountains surrounding the site: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The Bible describes how the Children of Israel stood between the two mountains, receiving instructions about the potential blessings they could receive from Mount Gerizim (holy to this day to Samaritan Jews) and the curses from Mount Ebal.
When Hashem your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and possess, you shall pronounce the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at HarEival. Deuteronomy 11:29
Joseph’s Tomb is a point of particularly hot contention between Israel and the Palestinians; located in Samaria, a region conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although the city came under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction as a result of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the religious site remained under Israeli control to ensure access for all religions. Following multiple incidents of Palestinian violence, the IDF abandoned the site in 2000 and Jews were prohibited from visiting it. Since 2002, Jewish worshipers have only been permitted to visit the site once each month, and only under strict IDF supervision. In 2011, a young Jewish man was shot and killed by a Palestinian policeman when he attempted to visit the site without prior IDF permission.