Ya'akov's SonAugust 17,1998
A week and a half ago two young men from the Shomron community Yitzhar were
killed by Arab terrorists. Harel ben Nunn, 18 years old, specialized in
working the land. He cleared out an entire hillside for use by the Yitzhar
community residents. Twenty-four year old Shlomo Leibman also dedicated his
life to Am Yisrael. He spent almost all his waking hours at Kever Yosef -
the Tomb of Joseph, presently the home of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai, a Yeshiva
led by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg.
Shlomo Liebman HY"D was not only dedicated to Kever Yosef in Shechem. He was
a native of Hebron. His family lived in Hebron for many years before moving
to Jerusalem. He was born here, in the city of the Patriarchs and
Matriarchs. One of his brothers holds a security-related position in Hebron
and lives in Kiryat Arba. The very moment he was murdered, Shlomo was
speaking to a friend who lives in a community close to Hebron. They were
discussing different possibilities to bring groups of visitors to Kever
Yosef during the summer vacation. In the middle of the conversation the
friend heard gunshots and then an Arab saying, "Look, the cellphone is
open.' The phone was suddenly disconnected.
Almost two years ago Kever Yosef in Shechem was brutally desecrated. During
the "Succot War" when Arafat's soldiers opened fire on Israeli military
personnel, six young soldiers were killed inside the Kever Yosef Compound.
Some of the men bled to death because the compound was surrounded by Arabs
and there wasn't anyone to treat their wounds. The compound itself was
burned: the huge library of holy books was destroyed and the tomb itself was
left in ruins. Unfortunately little has been done to rectify this profanity.
In spite of the fact that according to the "Oslo Piece Accords" this holy
site is under Israeli control, the Arabs have much to say about what goes on
there. In order to reach Kever Yosef, inside the city of Shechem, visitors
must travel through Arafat-land, under total Arab control. Many times the
Arabs refuse to allow access to the site, or limit the number of people
allowed to visit. Access was permissible only during the day. At night
everyone had to leave.
Following the murder at Yitzhar the Israeli army allowed members of the
Yeshiva to remain in the Kever Yosef compound 24 hours a day. Following the
weeklong mourning period, the men requested permission to be allowed to
remain in the compound all day and all night. The army agreed. Last Thursday
evening Arafat's police-soldiers demanded that the men leave the site during
night hours. The army refused the demand. So the Arabs put the compound
under siege. For some time the men inside were denied food and water.
However finally this was allowed in. There are Israeli soldiers inside the
compound, as is usual, but more reinforcements are not allowed. The Arabs
are demanding that the 30 civilians inside (28 men and one married couple)
leave, and not be allowed to stay there at night. The Israeli government,
presently represented in Shechem by the new Commander of the Central
Region, General Moshe (Bugi) Ya'alon is refusing to give in. It seems that
they finally realize the importance of Kever Yosef in Shechem to the Jewish
A short time ago I spoke with Rabbi Yitzhak Arad, the director of Gal-Einai
Yeshiva institutions (Shechem, Yericho, Hebron - http://www.inner.org). He
has been inside the Kever Yosef Compound since the end of last week. He told
me that spirits are high and that they all hope that their present goal will
be accomplished - that being, a commitment from the Israeli government
allowing Jewish presence in the Yeshiva at all hours of the day and night.
He reiterated that fact that the Arabs continue to violate the "Oslo
Accords" setting conditions for Jewish visitors inside the Kever Yosef
compound, limiting the types of equipment brought in (they refused to allow
in loudspeakers), and were even denying those already inside the right to
leave! He added that at the moment the Arabs would be very glad to have them
leave, but then they would probably try to prevent access by anyone else to
the site. He asked that supporters send faxes and letters to the Prime
Minister (Tel: 972-2-6705555 - Fax: 972-2-6512631 and the Minister of
Defense (Tel: 972-3-5692010/6975750 - Fax: 972-3-6916940), asking them to
remain strong and not acquiesce to Arab demands that Jews not be allowed to
dwell at this holy site during night hours. It is also of utmost importance
that this site be renovated, for its desecrated state can only be described
as an abomination.
Yosef, Ya'akov's son, was also a resident of Hebron. He is an eternal
link between Hebron and Shechem, two holy cities in the Land of Israel. Just
as we cannot abandon our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, neither can we abandon
their offspring. We must not abandon Yosef, or those who are dedicating
their lives in his memory. We call upon the Israeli government to rebuild
Kever Yosef in Shechem and to populate it 24 hours a day. Nothing could
better commemorate the memory of Shlomo Leibman HY"D, who gave his life for
Yosef's tomb in Shechem.