zondag 19 oktober 2008

Afgebrand graf van Joseph bij Nabloes door 1.000 Joden bezocht

Waarom zijn het alleen de rechtse nationalisten en kolonisten die zich inzetten voor vrije toegang voor Joden tot Joseph's graf nabij Nabloes? Het is nagenoeg onbekend in het Westen, en vooral bij links, dat de Palestijnen deze en andere heilige plaatsen van de Joden op de Westoever hebben verwoest, en de Palestijnse Autoriteit daar op zijn best niks tegen ondernam, en er soms zelfs aan meewerkte. Voor de rechtse zionisten is dit natuurlijk het perfecte argument tegen ontruiming van de Westoever en de stichting van een Palestijnse staat. Voor links is het een pijnlijke zaak, die hun niet goed uitkomt.

Praying to return
With only a month left until her wedding, Yael Levenson, 22, from Jerusalem, has a lot to pray for.

So she was one of 1,000 Jews who traveled in and out of Nablus on buses from midnight to 5 a.m. on Thursday, in a brief pilgrimage to the burned-out shell of the building that covers Joseph's Tomb.

Levenson was on one of the first of the buses that the IDF escorted through the dark and empty streets of the city.

Eight years ago this month, Israel withdrew from the tomb after a fierce gun battle in which six Palestinians and Border Police Cpl. Madhat Yusef were killed. Within a week, a Palestinian mob ransacked and burned the buildings in the compound, and Eilon Moreh resident Hillel Lieberman, who also held US citizenship, was killed en route to the tomb. The father of seven was one of the founders and administrators of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb, and had wanted to pray there.

On Levenson's quiet ride from Jerusalem into the West Bank, the only thing burning in the night were the lights of the homes on the surrounding hills.

"I wasn't afraid," she said afterward as she sat in the back of the bus, wrapped in a shawl to ward off the cold.

As the bus drew near the tomb, a number of yeshiva students quietly began singing a song about the patriarch Joseph, whose bones were carried out of Egypt and, legend has it, reburied in Nablus.

On top of the tomb is a small stone shrine with a curved roof, flanked on the left by a one-room structure that used to belong to the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva and on the right by the remnant of an IDF security room.

Until the October 2000 riot that closed the tomb, a tree rooted in a stone box had bloomed by the front door. Now only a few parched weeds stuck out of the dirt.
For two years after the riot, Jews were banned from visiting. Then they were allowed back intermittently.

But this year, a renewed push by settlers and politicians, including a Knesset lobby headed by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), has procured entry to the tomb once a month, on Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the Hebrew month), in the dead of night, to Jewish worshipers.

Last month, the tomb was closed in response to a settler rampage through the Palestinian village of Asira el-Kibliyeh, south of Nablus. But this month the ban was lifted and on this one night, in the middle of Succot, the tomb was opened for one of the largest groups of visitors this year.

As she walked out of the bus and saw the compound with stones that were still black from the fire that burned eight years ago, Levenson was struck by a tumble of conflicting feelings.

"It was deeply emotional to be there. And the fact that it was difficult to get there only heightened that sense," she said.

It was sad to see the destruction at the holy place, she added.

The room with the grave was lit by a makeshift florescent light, powered by a generator. The center of the oval roof was gone, and the stone remnants looked like a cracked eggshell, letting the moon and stars shine on the worshipers.

Standing in the room crowded with women, Levenson open her prayer book and recited psalms. Then she pushed her way close to the roughhewn stone on top of the grave itself and kissed it.

Spontaneously, she collected some of the ash that was stuck to the stone, so that she could place it on her husband's forehead during their marriage ceremony, when he smashes the glass to remind them of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Around her, women knelt by the grave, wept, prayed and lit tea lights.

As the men waited for their brief turn at the grave, they danced and sang in the adjacent room.

Unlike Levenson, veteran visitors to the tomb could not contain their happiness and pride at the success of the event, in a year they said had marked a turning point in the government's attitude toward the tomb.

Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said that since he entered his post at the end of 2007, he had made normalizing access to the tomb a priority.

"We are praying to return," he said. "We have more requests to visit than we can accommodate."

The space was so small and the demand was so high that visitors came in hour-long shifts, he said.

Under international agreements, including the Oslo Accords, Jews have a right to pray here, Mesika said as he watched the crowd of worshipers, which spilled out of the building's doorways.

His dream, he said, was to reopen the yeshiva and to secure daily visits.

His spokesman, David Ha'ivri, said the Samaria council was raising money to renovate the tomb.

Standing next to him, Eli Rosenfeld, the former administrator of the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva, said he was heartened to see that the Palestinian Authority had cleaned up the garbage that until only a few months ago had littered the site.

It did so, he said, after France's outgoing Chief Rabbi Joseph Haïm Sitruk asked President Nicolas Sarkozy to help. Sarkozy in turn asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to improve conditions at the tomb, Rosenfeld said.

Yeshiva student Yedidya Barzilai recalled how when he first came to the tomb five years ago, it was surrounded by tanks and the tension was palpable. Now, he marveled at how easily they slipped in and out of Nablus.

No matter what the conditions, visitor Yishai Fleisher from the Beit El settlement told The Jerusalem Post, he came with joy in his heart, and this was the miracle of the place: that even amid the destruction there was a reason to celebrate.

There was even something romantic about entering a town filled with "Jew haters" in the middle of the night to help reclaim an ancient spiritual site, Fleisher said.

Ayala Alprovich said that when a friend first told her about these pilgrimages, she thought the whole thing sounded crazy and dangerous. Still, it piqued her interest and in the end she decided to go to pray that she may soon find a husband.

She admitted that she was a bit frightened on the way there. But now, as the bus headed back to Jerusalem, "I feel safe. And that only strengthens my conviction that this [the West Bank] is our country," Alprovich said.

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