Sharona Margolin Halickman
Sharona Margolin Halickman

Our roots in Shechem

In Parshat Vayishlach, after Yaakov separates from Esav we read (Breisheet 33:18-20):

Yaakov arrived safely at the city of Shechem, which is in the Land of C’naan, when he came from Padan Aram. He encamped before the city. He bought the part of the field where he had spread his tent, from the sons of Chamor, father of Shechem, for 100 kesitas. He set up an altar there and called it “El Elohei Yisrael.”

In the Book of Yehoshua (24:32), we come full circle when we read about Yosef’s burial in Shechem:

Yosef’s bones, which B’nai Yisrael had brought from Egypt, they buried in Shechem, in the portion of the field that Yaakov acquired from the children of Chamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 kesitas; and it became a heritage for the children of Yosef.

It is clear from these two sources that our history in Shechem goes back to the Tanach.

Yosef’s tomb is located at the eastern entrance of the valley that separates Har Grizim and Har Eval. It is 300 meters northwest of Yaakov’s Well, on the outskirts of the city of Nablus.

After Israel captured Nablus in 1967, Jews began to frequent the tomb. Unfortunately, over the years, there have been many conflicts at the site.

Shulamit Aloni, minister of culture and education in the Rabin government did not help matters when she promoted the idea (falsely claimed by archeologists) that the site was only 200 years old. Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashwari as well claimed that Judaism’s connection with the tomb was fabricated.

The site was viciously attached on two occasions:

In 1996, six Israeli soldiers were killed at the tomb after Nablus was handed over to the PA as part of the Oslo Accords (even though technically, Yosef’s tomb along with other religious sites was still considered under Israeli control).

In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak handed over Yosef’s tomb to the Palestinian Police. This was a humiliating moment for Israel. Palestinians burned the tomb immediately after it was evacuated. Madhat Yusef, a Druze Israel Border Policeman was killed. When Rabbi Hillel Lieberman rushed to the tomb to check the damage, he too was killed.

Unfortunately the site is no longer in Israeli hands. Jews can only visit with permission from the army.

In 2011, the Palestinian Authority Police opened fire on three cars of worshippers after they were praying at Yosef’s tomb. One man was killed, Ben Yosef Livnat, former culture minister, Limor Livnat’s nephew. It seems that the visit was not coordinated by the authorities. Former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz stated that they fired without justification.

There have been more clashes, fires and damage to the tomb ever since.

It is unfortunate that the Israeli government does not see Yosef’s tomb as a priority even though it is clear from the Tanach that it is one of our holy sites.

May we see the day when Yosef’s tomb is properly cared for the way that Yosef’s bones were taken care of by B’nai Yisrael.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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