Jewish worshippers visiting the tomb of the biblical patriarch Joseph in the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus (Shechem) on Wednesday were shocked to find the holy site severely desecrated.
The group of some 2,500 Jewish pilgrims told Israel's Maariv newspaper that Jewish holy books at the site had been burned, furniture smashed, the smell of urine was abundant, and there was evidence of an effort to burn down the structure.
"Only barbarians would do horrible things like this to such a holy site," local Jewish leader Gershon Mesika told the newspaper. "Israel can no longer allow its holy places to be freely desecrated."
Joseph's Tomb is situated on the outskirts of Nablus, a large Arab-dominated town that occupies the location of biblical Shechem. Until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, Israel maintained an IDF-protected enclave around the tomb, providing Jewish worshippers with free and uninterrupted access.
But when the tomb was besieged by Palestinian mobs and an IDF soldier was killed defending the site in late 2000, Israel agreed to cede control to the Palestinian Authority with guarantees that the holy place would be protected.
Not hours after Israel evacuated, a Palestinian mob was permitted to storm and raze Joseph's Tomb.
Jewish groups periodically visit the site under army protection, and have restored much of the damage, but the tomb is regularly desecrated by local Palestinians.
The international community has been completely silent regarding this ongoing hate crime and the lack of religious freedom afforded Jews who wish to pray at this biblical landmark.