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Coordinates: 32°12′41″N 35°16′56″E / 32.2115°N 35.2821°E / 32.2115; 35.2821

Tomb of Joseph at Shechem 1839, by David Roberts

"Tomb of Joseph at Shechem", by David Roberts 1839

Joseph's Tomb (Hebrew: קבר יוסף‎, Kever Yosef, Arabic: قبر يوسف‎, Kabr Yûsef) is located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, some 230 metres (750 ft) north of Jacob's Well, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus, near the site of biblical Shechem.[1]

Traditions regarding of the tomb date back to the beginning of the 4th-century AD.[2] In 1869 Mark Twain wrote of the site: "Few tombs on earth command the veneration of so many races and men of diverse creeds as this of Joseph. Samaritan and Jew, Moslem and Christian alike, revere it, and honour it with their visits".[3] It is one of the holiest sites in Judaism[4] as many Jews believe the site to be the final resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. The Samaritans have held the site sacred since the 11th-century for the same reason.[5] Historically, Muslims also associated the tomb with that of the biblical figure. In recent years however, they claim that an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Yussuf (Joseph) Dawiqat, was buried there two centuries ago.[6] According to Islamic tradition, the biblical Joseph is buried in Hebron, next to the Cave of the Patriarchs where a medieval structure known as Yussuf-Kalah, the "Castle of Joseph", is located.[7]

Authenticity of the site was confirmed by the discovery of a nearby tomb and Egyptian relics from 1600-1400 BCE during archaeological excavations undertaken in the area in 1913.[5]

Early traditions

According to the Book of Joshua, "The bones of Joseph, which the Children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, were buried in Shechem in a parcel of land Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor, father of Shechem, for a hundred pieces of silver..."[8] The Genesis Rabba, a Jewish text, states that this site is one of three that the nations of the world cannot taunt Israel and say "you have stolen them," it being purchased "for its full price," by Jacob.[9] While the Bible has Joseph buried in Shechem, Jewish aggadic tradition conserved the idea that he wished to be interred at Hebron, and the Islamic tradition that places his resting place next to the Cave of the Patriarchs may reflect this.[7][10]

Joseph tomb 1887

Joseph's tomb and Mount Gerizim, 1887 illustration

The Itinerarium Burdigalense (333 AD) records "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."[11] 4th-century Eusebius of Caesarea records in his Onomasticon: "Suchem, city of Jacob now deserted. The place is pointed out in the suburb of Neapolis. There the tomb of Joseph is pointed out nearby."[12] Jerome (5th cent.) 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.[13] Christian pilgrim and archdeacon Theodosius (518-520) in his De situ terrae sanctae mentions "close to Jacob's Well are the remains of Joseph the Holy". In around 1171 Persian traveller al-Harawi paid hoimage at the tomb[14] as did Benjamin of Tudela who wrote that the Samaritans were in possession of it.[2] Menachem ben Peretz of Hebron (1215) writes that in Shechem he saw the tomb of Joseph son of Jacob,
Tomb of Joseph, 1868

Photograph, 1868

with two marble pillars next to it; one at its head and another at its foot, with a low stone wall surrounding it. Reports by other Jewish travellers, for instance Ishtori Haparchi (c. 1320) and Gershom ben Asher (c. 1550), specify the tomb as being in the immediate neighbourhood of el-Balata.[2] Ben Asher adds that supplicants recite psalms 77, 80 and 81 over the tomb.[15] Mandeville (1322) and Maundrell (1697), among others, also mention its existence, although it is debatable as to whether any of these reports refer to the currently recognised location.[2] Samuel ben Samson (1210) places the tomb at Shiloh.[15]

An interesting suggestion in favour of the current Nablus site is made by Jewish traveller, Loewe,[16] who based his assumption on the peculiar form and nature of the geography surrounding the tomb. He cites Scripture which calls the place neither emek (valley) or shefela (plain), but by the individual name of chelkat ha-Sadeh (portion of field); "and 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."[2]

History of the identification and use of the site

19th century accounts

Joseph's Tomb

Early 1900s

William Cooke Taylor (1838) describes the tomb, and notes that "The present monument... is a place of resort, not only for Jews and Christains, but Mohammedans and Samaritans; all of whom concur in the belief that it stands on the vertiable spot where the patriarch was buried." [17] In 1839 it was recorded that Jews frequently visited the tomb and many Hebrew sentences were inscribed upon the walls.[18] The site was “kept very neat and in good repair by the bounty of Jews who visited it."[19] The Churchman's Monthly Review (1847) writes that the tomb lies about two or three hundred yards to the north of Jacob's Well, across the valley. It describes "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 and Samaritan characters, are written on the walls of this enclosure." A Hebrew inscription recalled the renovation of the structure by a Jew, Elijah son of Meir, (possibly of Egypt), in around 1749. “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”.[20] (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.[5])

Hebrew inscription at Joseph's Tomb, 1847

Hebrew inscription recording the renovation of 1749: ...Blessed be the Lord who has put it into the heart of Elijah, the son of Meir, our rabbi, to build again the house of Joseph in the month Sivan, in the year 5509 (AM)

Joseph Schwarz (1850) identifies a village named Abulnita as the site “where Joseph lies buried”. He locates this “about 2 English miles east of Shechem”.[21] Western travellers to Palestine in the 19th century described their impressions of the site in travelogues. John Ross Browne (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."[22] Howard Crosby (1851) also visited the site. He calls it, "the so-called tomb of Joseph," and describes it as follows: "It is a plain white Santon's tomb, or Wely, such as is everywhere seen in Mohammedan 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."[23] Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy and Edouard de Warren (1853) describe it as "a small Mussalman oualy (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.[24] A Dictionary of the Bible (1863) notes the peculiarity that the tomb is placed diagonally to the walls, instead of parallel, as usual. It also mentions the two mounted slabs with Hebrew inscriptions, and that the interior is almost covered with the names of pilgrims in Hebrew, Arabic, and Samaritan.[2] One visitor “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.”[25] In 1883 it was noted 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 Moslem saints."[26] In 1875, Isabel Burton wrote that she found some Jews praying at the site.[27] An 1887 book describes that the two low pillars at either end of the tomb had their tops hallowed out and blackened by fire. This was due to a Jewish practise “of burning small articles, such as gold lace, shawls, or handkerchiefs, in the saucer-like cups in memory of the patriarch who sleeps beneath.”[28]

A stone bench is built into the east wall, on which three Jews were seated at the time of our second visit, book in hand, swinging backwards and forwards as they crooned out a nasal chant – a prayer no doubt appropriate to the place.
Claude R. Conder, 1878.[29]

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). He states that the enclosure 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 foot square. The plastered, whitewashed walls, about 1 foot thick, are in good repair and stand 10 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, where an additional English inscription informs that “This building surrounding and covering and tomb of the patriarch Joseph was entirely rebuilt at the expense of Mr. E. T. Rogers, H. B. M.’s Consel at Damascus, January, 1868.” The tomb itself measures 6 feet long and stands 4 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. He 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.[29][30][31]

After 1967

Grave of Joseph

"This is God's prophet, our master Joseph, peace be upon him", 1917.

After the capture of Nablus and the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War war, Jews were once again allowed to visit the site. At the time it stood in a field outside the city. Today it is surrounded on all sides by streets and houses. Prior to 1974, Jews did not visit because the site was under Arab and Muslim religious control; Muslims believe an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Yussuf (Joseph) Dawiqat, was buried there two centuries ago.[32][33] By 1975, Muslims were prohibited from visiting the site.[34] In the mid-1980s a yeshiva named Od Yosef Chai, (Joseph Still Lives), was built at the site along with an Israeli Defence Forces military outpost. On the traditional anniversary of Joseph's death, Tammuz 27, hundreds of Jews would arrive at the site.[35] In 1997, attaching the religious tradition surrounding the story of Joseph to the site, the settlers received protection from the IDF to transform the place of former exclusive Muslim worship into one of their own.[33] Torah scrolls were brought in and the site was consecrated as a synagogue.[33][34]

Jurisdiction of Nablus was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority on December 12, 1995, as a result of the Oslo Accords Interim Agreement on the West Bank.[36] The accords, which stipulated Palestinian Authority responsibility "to ensure free, unimpeded and secure access to the relevant Jewish holy sites",[37] envisioned the inside of the tomb being guarded by Israeli soldiers, enabling daily access for students and pilgrims.[38] The tomb, resembling a fortified military post with a small functioning yeshiva, became a frequent flash point.[39] In 1996, during a wave of riots by Palestinian police and militants throughout the West Bank which broke out following the opening of the Western Wall Tunnel, six Israeli soldiers were killed there.[39] In September 2000, at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the tomb was the scene of a battle in which 18 Palestinians and an Israeli border policeman were killed. To avoid further friction, the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, ordered the army to vacate the tomb. On October 7, 2000 it was handed over to the Palestinian police.[39] Hours after the handover, a Palestinian mob ransacked the structure, smashing the dome with pickaxes and setting the compound on fire.[39][40] A Palestinian policeman securing the site was wounded and subsequently died.[41] By October 11, there were reports that Palestinians had begun refurbishing the complex. They warned that Jewish worshippers would not be permitted to pray there until an international organization or third party determined whether the site is holy to Moslems or Jews.[42]

Israeli military officials said the Palestinians intended to build a mosque on the ruins of the site.[43] 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 had ordered the renovations and for the synagogue to be rebuilt.[43] Nablus Mayor Ghassan Shakaa 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.[44] Under intense U.S. and international pressure the dome was repainted white.[45]

Since 2000

KeverYosef Shechem

Night visit under IDF guard, November 2009

After the events of October 2000, the IDF prohibited Israeli access to the tomb. However, some Breslov hasidim and others would visit the site clandestinely under the cover of darkness, evading army and police checkpoints. 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.[4] As a result of Operation Defensive Shield, 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.[46] However, in October, citing security reasons, Israel re-imposed a ban on Jewish pilgrims obtaining special permits and travelling to the tomb.[6]

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 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.[47]

In February 2007, thirty five MKs wrote to the army asking them to open Joseph's Tomb to Jewish visitors for prayer.[46] In May 2007, Breslov hasidim visited the site for the first time in two years. Since then, some pilgrim groups are allowed to enter under armed escort. In late 2007 a group of hasidim found that the gravesite had been cleaned up the by Palestinians. In the past few years the site had suffered from neglect and its appearance had deteriorated, with garbage being dumped and tires being burnt there.[48]

In February 2008, it was reported that Israel would officially ask the Palestinian Authority to carry out repairs at the tomb.[49] In February 2008, vandals set burning tires inside the tomb. As a response, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas 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.[50]

As of 2009, monthly visits to the tomb in bullet-proof vehicles under heavy IDF protection, are organised by the Yitzhar based organization Shechem Ehad.[51] 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.[52]

See also

References

Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Joseph's Tomb. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Palestine Exploration Fund and Stewardson, 1838, p. 99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Smith, William. A Dictionary of the Bible: comprising its antiquities, biography, geography, and natural history, Volume 3, John Murray, 1863. p. 1239
  3. Mark Twain (2008) [1869]. The Innocents Abroad. Velvet Element Books. p. 553. ISBN 0981764460. http://books.google.com/books?id=fFjyA7FJorUC&pg=PA553&dq=tomb+of+joseph&lr=&hl=fr#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tanks roll back into Nablus, Daily Telegraph, May 30, 2002.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shlomo S. Gafni & A.van der Heyden. (1980). The glory of the Holy Land. The Jerusalem Publishing House. p. 138. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Israeli army returns to Arafat compound, BBC, October 1, 2002.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Biblical Archaeology Review, Patriarchal Burial Site Explored for First Time in 700 Years, May/June 1985
  8. See Joshua 24:32 and Genesis 33:18-20
  9. Genesis Rabba 79.7: "And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent...for a hundred pieces of money." Rav Yudan son of Shimon said: 'This is one of the three places where the non-Jews cannot deceive the Jewish People by saying that they stole it from them, and these are the places: Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Temple and Joseph's burial place. Ma'arat HaMachpela because it is written: 'And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver,' (Genesis, 23:16); the Temple because it is written: 'So David gave to Ornan for the place,' (I Chronicles, 21:26); and Joseph's burial place because it is written: 'And he bought the parcel of ground...Jacob bought Shechem.' (Genesis, 33:19)." See also: Kook, Abraham Issac, Moadei Hare'iya, pp. 413–415.
  10. Shalom Goldman, 'The Wiles of Women/the Wiles of Men: Joseph and Potiphar's Wife in Ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Islamic Folklore,SUNY Press, 1995 pp.126-7
  11. Itinerarium Burdigalense, Franciscan Cyberspot
  12. C. Umhau Wolf (2006) [1971]. The Onomasticon of Eusebius Pamphili Compared with the Version of Jerome and Annotated. The Tertullian Project. pp. p. xx. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_onomasticon_03_notes.htm#807. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  13. Kohen, Eli. History of the Byzantine Jews: a microcosmos in the thousand year empire, University Press of America, 2007. p. 24, ISBN: 0761836233
  14. Pringle, Denys. The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: L-Z (exluding Tyre), Cambridge University Press, 1998. p. 94. ISBN 0521390370
  15. 15.0 15.1 Shechem, Jewish Encyclopedia 1906.
  16. Loewe, in Ally. Zeitung dt'S Judenthvms, Leipzig, 1839, No. 50
  17. Taylor, William Cooke (1838). Illustrations Of The Bible From The Monuments of Egypt. Page 206. London: Tilt.
  18. Andrew Alexander Bonar, Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Narrative of a mission of inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839, Whyte, 1849. p. 213
  19. Church Pastoral-aid Society, London. Church of England Magazine, Volume 17, J. Burns, 1844. (No. 490, October 26, 1844) p. 280.
  20. The Churchman's monthly review, Oxford University, 1847. p. 602
  21. Schwarz, Joseph. Names of the Towns of the Sons of Joseph, Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine, 1850
  22. Browne, 1853, p. 354.
  23. Crosby, 2001, p. 291-2.
  24. de Saulcy, 1853, p. 103.
  25. Hackett, Horatio Balch. Illustrations of scripture: a tour through the Holy Land, T. Nelson and sons, 1857. p. 128
  26. Thomson, William McClure. Biblical illustrations drawn from the manners and customs, the scenes and scenery, of the Holy land. Central Palestine and Phœnicia, T. Nelson, 1883. P. 147
  27. Burton, Isabel. The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land: From My Private Journal, H.S. King & Co., 1876. p. 207
  28. Geike, Cunningham. The Holy Land and the Bible: a book of Scripture illustrations gathered in Palestine, Cassell, London, 1887. p. 212
  29. 29.0 29.1 Conder, Claude R. Tent Work in Palestine: A Record of Discovery and Adventure, Adamant Media Corporation, 2002. [Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1878]. pp. 74-75. ISBN 1402189877
  30. Conder, Claude R. The Survey of Western Palestine : memoirs of the topography, orography, hydrography, and archaeology, Palestine exploration fund, London, 1881]. pp. 194-195.
  31. Conder, Claude Reignier. Palestine, George Philip & Son, London, 1889. p. 63-64. ISBN: 140218011X
  32. Sontag, Deborah (October 4, 2000). "A Biblical Patriarch's Tomb Becomes a Battleground". http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/04/world/a-biblical-patriarch-s-tomb-becomes-a-battleground.html. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Dor, 2004, p. 48.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Hann, 2002, p. 167.
  35. Fendel, Hillel. Arab Municipality Deigns to Clean Jewish Holy Site, Arutz Sheva, November 11, 2007.
  36. "Palestine Facts 1994-1995". Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA). http://www.passia.org/palestine_facts/chronology/19941995.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  37. Interim Agreement Annex I: Protocol Concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements, Article V.
  38. Ratification of the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement, October 5, 1995. Israel MFA
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 Kershner, Isabel. Pilgrimage to Roots of Faith and Strife, New York Times, October 23, 2008.
  40. Doucet, Lyse. Jewish shrine ransacked, BBC, October 7, 2000.
  41. UN Commission on Human Rights: Press Release 17 October 2000
  42. Dudkevitch, Margot. Palestinians refurbish Joseph's Tomb, Jerusalem Post, October 11, 2000.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Harel, Amos. IDF: Palestinians building mosque on Joseph's Tomb site, Haaretz, October 10, 2000.
  44. Tarabay, Jamie. Israelis and Palestinians contest holy shrine, Associated Press, October 11, 2000
  45. Hirschberg, Peter. Israel fears Palestinian mob damage at other West Bank holy sites, The Jerusalem Report, November 6, 2000.
  46. 46.0 46.1 Wagner, Matthew. 35 MKs want Joseph's Tomb reopened, Jerusalem Post, February 15, 2007.
  47. Gutman, Matthew & Lazaroff, Tovah. Joseph's Tomb destruction 'very serious,' says PM aide, Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2003
  48. Weiss, Efrat. Palestinians clean Joseph's Tomb, Ynet, November 14, 2007
  49. Israel to ask PA to repair Joseph's Tomb, Jerusalem Post, February 03, 2008.
  50. Zuroff, Avraham. Joseph’s Tomb Gets a Paint Job After 9 Years of Arab Desecration, Arutz Sheva, December 25, 2008
  51. Wagner, Matthew. Site of Joseph's Tomb vandalized, Jerusalem Post, April 23, 2009.
  52. Weiss, Efrat. Joseph's Tomb compound vandalized, Ynet, April 23, 2009

Bibliography

  • Browne, John Ross (1853). Yusef: or, The Journey of the Fungi [i.e Frangi]: A crusade in the East. Harper. 
  • Crosby, Howard (2001 (Originally published in 1851)). Lands of the Moslem: A Narrative of Oriental Travel. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1402194447, 9781402194443. 
  • de Saulcy, Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart; de Warren, Edouard (1853). Edouard de Warren. ed. Narrative of a journey round the Dead Sea, and in the Bible lands, in 1850 and 1851, Volume 1 (2nd ed.). R. Bentley. 
  • Dor, Danny (2004). Intifada hits the headlines: how the Israeli press misreported the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253216370, 9780253216373. 
  • C. M. Hann, ed (2002). Postsocialism: ideals, ideologies, and practices in Eurasia (Illustrated, reprint ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0415262577, 9780415262576. 
  • Stewardson, Henry C. (1838). The survey of western Palestine: A general index to 1. The memoirs, vols. I.-III.; 2. The special papers; 3. The Jerusalem volume; 4. The flora and fauna of Palestine; 5. The geological survey; and to The Arabic and English name lists. Printed for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by Harrison & sons. 

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