JERUSALEM (Dec. 20)
After twice being rebuffed by Israeli security forces, settlers have pledged to bring a Torah this week to Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank town of Nablus — even if the Israel Defense Force withdraws permission.
Settlers initially planned to hold a procession Dec. 12 to bring a new Torah to the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva at Joseph’s Tomb.
But the army barred the procession because it violated curfews that had been imposed on the area, populated predominantly by Palestinians, and because the procession was viewed as too provocative at a sensitive time.
On the next day, Dec. 13, the Palestinian self-rule accord was scheduled to be implemented, and tensions between Palestinians and Jews were running especially high.
The Dec. 13 deadline was postponed following a deadlock in the Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization negotiations.
The procession was subsequently rescheduled for Dec. 16, but the army again cancelled it after soldiers had a fierce confrontation with 2,000 settlers.
As a result, the army detained 39 settlers overnight and declared Nablus a closed military area.
The army has reportedly given permission for the procession to take place later this week — if the security situation in the area permits.
But the settlers have reportedly said the procession will take place even if the army rescinds its permission.
Communications Minister Shulamit Aloni of the left-wing Meretz bloc was reported to have criticized the settlers, calling their efforts “provocative.”
She said Jews should not be allowed to go to Joseph’s Tomb “in these days” because the procession will create additional strains between Palestinians and Jews.
Aloni, whose rhetoric has precipitated crises in the coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the last year, previously stirred up controversy about the site.
Earlier this year, during a speech to hundreds of Jerusalem high-schoolers, she referred to the reputed grave in Nablus of the biblical Joseph as “the cave of some sheik Yosef.”