Jewish pilgrims visiting the building revered as Joseph’s Tomb in the Palestinian city of Nablus on Wednesday night said they discovered signs of vandalism and attempted arson at the site.
Some 2,500 Israelis visited the Jewish site under army protection to worship, as they do once a month. Entrance to the tomb, in an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority, is normally off limits to Israelis.
Yossi Dagan, the deputy chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, told Maariv that when the group arrived they found that vandals had urinated along the entrance way to the tomb. Additionally, there were indications on the wall and window of attempts to start a fire.
“Only barbarians would do horrible things like this to such a holy site. Israel can no longer allow its symbols and holy places to be freely desecrated, over and over,” Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said.
Mesika further called on the government to return Joseph’s Tomb to Israeli sovereignty in order to “restore its tarnished honor.”
The tomb, which is considered by biblical tradition to be the resting spot of the patriarch Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Menasseh, was looted and razed very soon after Nablus, as part of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, was transferred to Palestinian Authority control in September 2000.
Renovations to the site were completed about a year ago. The Samaria Regional Council and an organization called “Shechem Ehad” have been arranging monthly visits to the site since 2009.
In June, some 1,200 worshipers on their way to Joseph’s Tomb were attacked by stone-throwing Palestinians, injuring one soldier who was guarding the group.