Israeli authorities repaired the Joseph’s Tomb shrine on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Monday.
The shrine, which is revered by Jews as the burial site of the biblical patriarch Joseph, was torched by Palestinian rioters two weeks ago in an incident condemned by Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Some 50 workers, including painters, metalworkers, electricians, gardeners and stoneworkers, were accompanied by a detail of IDF soldiers to the site late Monday and worked through the night to repair the damage. In just five hours, the site was cleaned and painted, and the marble covering of the tomb was replaced.
Army Radio reported Tuesday that Palestinian officials had already carried out partial repairs at the site, under orders of Nablus’s Palestinian Authority governor.
The overnight repairs were initiated by settlement leaders and the Samaria Regional Council.
Council chair Yossi Dagan called the operation “a moving, historic moment.”
He blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack on the shrine.
“Happiness and sadness are intertwined,” he said. “On the one hand, we have the privilege together with IDF soldiers and officers, Samaria Regional Council staff and representatives of the State of Israel to repair, even if only in part, the terrible damage inflicted by the barbarism of the Palestinian Authority, which desecrated a place so holy to the Jewish people and a site with such historic importance to humanity as a whole.”
Dagan welcomed the repair effort, but criticized the IDF’s decision to carry it out overnight. The “national disgrace” of the burning of the holy site was coupled, he said, with “our coming here in the dead of night, like thieves, to a place that is unquestionably ours. It’s a difficult feeling.”
He said that “even according to the terrible Oslo Accords, [the tomb] should be under Israeli control.”
The IDF’s regional commander Col. Shai Kleper and Samaria Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon were present during the repairs.
The regional council said the site would be reopened to Jewish worshipers in the coming weeks.
The Israel Police said that while the repair operation was carried out in coordination with it, officers arrested seven people, six of them minors, overnight for entering the compound without obtaining a permit. They were interrogated Tuesday morning and were to be brought before a judge to be arraigned later in the day.