Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox Breslov Hassidic sect met with Palestinian Authority officials Tuesday in Ramallah, in an attempt to coordinate the Jewish group’s visits to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
The representatives claimed that the IDF was unresponsive to the group’s requests to set up visits to the tomb, considered a holy site for both Jews and Muslims, Maariv reported on Wednesday.
“All of our attempts to coordinate private visits with the army have failed. That is why we appealed to the Palestinians directly,” Haim Reicher of the Yesod Olam group told Maariv. “The meeting itself put pressure on army officials and we received phone calls from command headquarters immediately afterwards.”
Tours of Joseph’s Tomb are generally arranged by the Samaria Regional Council and are supervised by the IDF. Visits to the site by Israelis take place once a month.
The group complained that the regional council favors religious Zionist settlers and discriminates against the sect by only allowing its members to enter the tomb late at night.
Reicher also expressed displeasure at the loud music reportedly blasted at the site and of the lack of “suitable separation” between men and woman. He explained that members of his sect wish to hold prayers at the site in a manner that befits their religious practices.
Possible visits to other religious sites within Palestinian territories, such as Joshua’s tomb and Othniel’s tomb, were discussed as well.
“We understand that Joseph’s Tomb is a historical site with significance for Jews and we have no problem with people entering the site in accordance with security officials,” Anan Al-Atira, Nablus deputy governor, told Maariv.
Israeli security officials stressed that the meeting in PA-controlled territory was not authorized by the IDF and illegal. The officials also said that any agreement that does not involve the IDF is not valid.
In June 2012, some 1,200 worshipers on their way to Joseph’s Tomb were attacked by stone-throwing Palestinians, resulting in the injury of one soldier who was guarding the group.
A source in the Samaria Regional Council called the move a “nonsensical gimmick.”