Palestinians burn Joseph's Tomb, Jews denied access

Thursday, April 28, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Just days after Palestinian police officers murdered a Jewish worshipper at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, an Arab mob once again set fire to the burial place of the biblical patriarch on Tuesday.

It is still unclear whether Tuesday's riot was in celebration of the killing of 25-year-old Ben Yosef Livnat as he prayed at the shrine on Sunday, or in protest over ongoing Jewish visits to the holy site.

It is not the first time the Palestinians have burned and otherwise desecrated Joseph's Tomb, which in addition to housing the burial place of the biblical figure, is also the site of a small yeshiva.

The so-called "Oslo Accords" signed between Israel and the Palestinians in 1995 stipulated that Joseph's Tomb would remain an Israeli-controlled enclave open to Jewish worshippers and religious students.

But at the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada in 2000, a Palestinian mob backed by Palestinian Authority police officers assaulted Joseph's Tomb, killing an Israeli soldier in the process. Israel subsequently surrendered control of the site on the condition that the Palestinian Authority would protect and maintain it.

Instead, the Palestinians immediately destroyed the domed tomb and set fire to the yeshiva. Numerous times over the past few years, visiting Jews have reported signs of fires, swastikas and other graffiti and desecration of both the tomb and Jewish prayer books.

The repeated assaults on Joseph's Tomb have not deterred some Jews from visiting the site on a regular basis. But their ability to do so may become increasingly difficult.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army arrested a group of 30 Orthodox Jews determined to pray at Joseph's Tomb. Army officials said they can not guarantee the safety of Jews who enter the site.

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