Arutz Sheva IsraelNationalNews.com - 9 iyar 5762
"I CRIED AND ASKED FORGIVENESS; JOSEPH'S BROTHERS SOLD HIM AGAIN"
Despite the IDF's withdrawal from Shechem this morning, many Jews still demand that Israel retake and retain the Joseph's Tomb compound. A demonstration to this effect was held today outside the Prime Minister's officer in Jerusalem. The demonstrators called upon Prime Minister Sharon and the government to "remove the national disgrace" caused by the abandonment of the holy site to Palestinian Authority gunmen 18 months ago. They noted that even the Oslo Agreement stipulates that the site is to remain under Israeli control, at least until a permanent arrangement is negotiated.
The withdrawal from Shechem was in fact held up last night by the presence of several dozen Jewish worshipers at the site. They managed to sneak in, as did several other groups in the course of the past two weeks, but some of them had trouble getting out After getting lost in Shechem, and after one of their number was assaulted and beaten up by Arabs, they called the Samaria-Judea District Police for help. The army came, rescued the group, and promptly detained them. The Yesha Council, which organized a rally last night of hundreds of people near Shechem demanding that Joseph's Tomb remain Jewish, says that those who try to enter the site on their own "are endangering themselves and IDF soldiers." Chief Rabbis Lau and Bakshi-Doron, as well as Shas leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, issued a ruling today forbidding individuals from trying to reach Joseph's Tomb without army permission.
Yehuda Libman, a prime figure in the Joseph's Tomb yeshiva - Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai - who received permission to visit the holy site last night, spoke with Arutz-7 today about his experience
"The army officially invited me to visit the site of Joseph's Tomb last night. I can say that our yeshiva, which has been in the forefront of the campaign for Joseph's Tomb over the past 18 years, did not call publicly for people to try to come to the site during the past two weeks [during which the IDF had control of Shechem]; we realized that there was a danger involved
Many Jews did come, however, from amongst the Breslover Hassidim and local Jewish residents, and we saw this as a blessing in itself, in that Jews are not forgetting this important site - and we said that responsibility for their fate lies with the government that did not see fit to normalize the official status of the site
"I arrived there, as a representative of the yeshiva, in army uniform - I was recently called up to the army - and I can openly say that the first thing I did was to simply fall and cling to the spot, and I just cried. For something like 10 or 15 minutes, I cried. In front of my eyes I saw the images of Hillel Lieberman [who was murdered on his way to Joseph's Tomb when he heard that it was to be given away], and of my brother Shlomo [who was murdered, together with Har'el Bin-Nun - both of them students of the Joseph's Tomb yeshiva - by Palestinian terrorists in August 1998 outside nearby Yitzhar], may Hashem avenge their blood, and of all the soldiers and boys who gave their lives for this place throughout the years
"For this past year and a half we have had this site taken from us, and we were able only to stand on Mt. Gerizim and see it from afar, and we had to hold back... and then suddenly to be able to return to it - I felt that I could no longer restrain myself, just as is written that "Joseph could no longer hold back, and he burst out in weeping" - this is how I felt... Possibly also because I was an official representative of the yeshiva, not just someone sneaking in like a thief in the night and running away from the soldiers
"Afterwards, I looked around. To see a place that you have been connected with so intensely for ten years, and which was abruptly taken away from you in one shot - it was Rosh HaShanah Eve of 5761, 18 months ago - it's the same place, but without its Jewish garb without the velvet coverings on the tomb, and without the Torah books and the bookcases, and without the Torah scrolls, and without the pictures of rabbis on the walls - it's like coming back to the house of your childhood and finding it without all its furnishings and hallmarks. But on the other hand, whoever is really bonded to this site can realize that what's important is not just the physical site and its trappings, but rather the message that it transmits to the Jewish nation
"At the end of my visit, I found myself alone for a short while, and I simply asked forgiveness from Joseph forgiveness for his brothers having sold him once again. After so many years, history repeats itself "maaseh avot siman l'banim" - that which the forefathers did is a sign for their descendants. Again, Israel shows that it does not know how to accept such a precious a gift as this, to keep it, to understand its value and greatness - that of this holy site, of all Eretz Yisrael... I asked forgiveness in the name of the soldiers, the officers, the government, the yeshiva - maybe we didn't do enough... But we know that just as we have retreated, we will return to it again..."
Rabbi Menachem Felix, who worked behind the scenes to get the government to agree to retain Joseph's Tomb for the Jewish People, told Arutz-7
"There were some government ministers who say they were promised by Prime Minister Sharon that it would be brought up in today's Cabinet meeting - but by the time the meeting started, it was already too late, as the army had already left... The meeting began with some sort of proclamation about Joseph's Tomb, but it was empty of real content
Of course we will return to the site, but what's the purpose of leaving, when we have all the reasons and justification to stay the merit of thousand of years, of Joseph's bones that are buried there, of the blood that was spilled there - and even, for those who want, the Oslo Agreements give us the right to be there! In addition, there were promises made by Prime Ministers Sharon and Barak, and by the Central Command O.C. who promised that we would return - so why did we leave?? It's very painful