Most of us associate Joseph's Tomb in Shechem with Palestinian/Israeli strife; this was the location of the murder of several Israeli soldiers & civilians and of infamous and murderous Palestinian rioters who burned and ransacked the building of the tomb.
A few weeks ago, following the lead of some of our kids, my wife and I decided to visit Joseph's Tomb in Shechem/Nablus. There are now scheduled monthly visits, organized together with the security forces, for the general public to pray at the Tomb.
We booked ourselves seats on a bus from
with the organizers, and we were called back by a polite lady to confirm we had
been approved for the visit, and allocated three seats. at Binyanei HaUma in Jerusalem.
Return-by time was left 'undefined'.
The folks who turned up at our bus were mainly national religious with a scattering of chareidim. Average age around 30.
The armored bus took about an hour to arrive at the main junction, outside Shechem and we waited about half an hour at the well-secured car park (by about ten military vehicles and 50 soldiers and police), for more buses from around the country to assemble. Once there were ten buses assembled, and the previous group of buses had finished their visit, our bus set out and we completed the journey into Shechem and from there to the Tomb.
There was significant visible security – with IDF soldiers manning the junctions and escorting the buses.
Our group consisted of about 500 people, and we were permitted to stay there for about 45 minutes.
This gave us all reasonable time and access, so we could recite tehilim and daven at the tomb. There were a few stands with boys selling posters, as well as free pastries for the visitors.
I was particularly impressed by the feeling of "amcha" – a cross-section of people. There was a scattering of Sephardim with ill-fitting kipot, settler-types, mainstream national religious, and a variety of litvish and chasidish chareidim.
Our 45 minutes up, we were called back onto the buses, and drove back through the deserted streets of Shechem. We arrived back in Jerusalem around 5am.
According to news reports, around 2000 people visited Joseph's Tomb that night.
I had previously associated the struggle for Jewish access to Joseph's Tomb with daring (extreme?) right-wing activists.
I think it is a definition of an extremist's victory, when his views/activities slide into the 'mainstream'.
Today's radical, if successful, is tomorrow's bore.
In which case, the current status of Joseph's Tomb is at least a (partial) victory for the extreme right wing – it is definitely moving into the 'mainstream'.