ISRAELIS THRONG TO SITE OF BIBLICAL HERO
From Petah Tikva take route 5 due east, drive for about ½ hour through the rolling ancient hills of Samaria, occasionally passing by a Jewish town or Arab village. Slow down as you approach the Ariel junction, look out your window northeast towards Shechem and you can see Mt. Grizim and Mt. Eival, the biblical mountains of the blessing and the curse, looming in the near distance. If this is any day other than the 26th of the Jewish month of Nissan, you can take the right hand exit to the booming Israeli town of Ariel or turn back towards your point of departure. The exit to your left follows a rough two lane road that ends in the small Arab village of Kifl Hareth. The road and village is under control of the Palestinian Authority and is closed to Israelis, all others enter at their own risk.
But once a year, on the 26th of Nissan you along with thousands of other pilgrims can travel on that otherwise forbidden road, accompanied by heavy Israeli military escort, to visit what many believe to be the final resting place of Moses’ servant, Joshua the son of Nun. Joshua is venerated in the Hebrew bible as being one of the two spies (of twelve) who gave a positive report on the land of Israel. He was the victorious commander of Israel’s first ever military engagement, crushing the Amalekite army in Rephidim; he succeeded Moses and led the children of Israel over the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
The bible details the burial of Joshua “in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Cheres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash (Joshua 24:30). The village of Kifl Hareth is most often identified as the modern day location of the ancient Jewish town of Timnat Cheres. Every year, on the anniversary of Joshua’s passing (Falling on the evening of Tuesday, the 17th of April this year), throngs of Israelis crowd around Joshua’s traditional burial place, a simple and well aged one story structure with a traditional cement dome, in the style of Rachel’s tomb. The visitors pray inside the tomb and sing and dance joyfully on the outside, to celebrate the opportunity to honor and memorialize the revered figure.
Although Joshua is venerated according to Islamic tradition as a prophet, the site of his tomb has been the frequent target of Arabic graffiti. Visiting pilgrims at last year’s ceremony were saddened to once again find the exterior of the holy tomb covered in graffiti from top to bottom. The Jerusalem Post reported “Jewish worshipers, escorted by the IDF, arrived at the site which is located between Barak and Ariel, and discovered graffiti on surrounding walls which advocated martyrdom.” “We swear to remain loyal to the blood of martyrs,” read the graffiti. “We are defenders of the national project,” “No appeasement, speak to your enemy through shooting,” and “Fatah was here” was also spray-painted on the walls.” The Post quoted head of the Samaria regional council Gershon Mesika observing “”If Jews were to desecrate a Muslim holy tomb in the same manner, the whole world would rage and erupt,”
Arutz 7 news reported that the venerated former chief Rabbi of Israel, Ovadia Yosef had expressed a desire to visit Joshua’s tomb today but due to health reasons was unable. ““Do we have any tomb like that of Yehoshua [Joshua] son of Nun? Where, tell me? … Yehoshua ben-Nun learned from Moshe Rabbeinu. He was among the greatest of the first prophets, he spoke to G-d directly,” Rabbi Yosef said.
Visitors departing for the tomb this evening expressed hope that unlike in recent years, Joshua’s burial place would be found intact and free of graffiti.
The village is also home to the traditional burial places of Kalev ben Yefuneh, noted along with Joshua as having given a positive report on the land of Israel and Nun, the father of Yehoshua.