Skip to main content


Joseph's Tomb - History and important events


Joseph's Tomb





Since biblical times, the city of Nablus (Shechem) has been known as the Samaritan capital. Many tourists visit the ancient Samaria ruins. The ruins of an ancient Hyksos temple built more than 3.5 thousand years ago, where Joseph's tomb is located, have been preserved here. The church of St. Anna, the Sidon tombs, and the Roman caves and quarries in Beit Guvrin are all worth seeing.


Nablus is a typical Arab city with charming old quarters. The An-Nazir Mosque is the most impressive of the 30 minarets that stretch upwards. Toukan Castle, an old Turkish fortress, is not far from the mosque.


Although it is private property, you can see the castle's architecture and garden. The oldest Turkish baths in the country are located to the east of the mosque. They were constructed in 1480. They have a steam room, a massage room, and a central hall where you can drink real coffee or mint tea.


At the foot of Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans live in a single block. According to legend, the legendary events described in the Torah occurred here - a stone is kept on the mountain, on which Jacob was going to sacrifice his son Isaac. Every year, the Samaritans gather here to commemorate one of the most important Jewish holidays, Pesach, and seven lambs are slaughtered.


A modern synagogue is being built near the altar, as are the ruins of a Byzantine church and the tomb of Sheikh Ghanem from the 12th century. In the city, there is also an ancient synagogue that houses a thousand-year-old Torah scroll. However, the majority of religious structures are still mosques with minarets rising above them. The An-Nazir Mosque is regarded as the most beautiful.


A Greek Orthodox church was built near the site where Jacob dug a well for his flock, and Joseph's tomb is nearby. Because this was Jacob's land, Joseph was buried here after being brought from Egypt.


Both Jewish and Muslim traditions, as well as Samaritan and Christian traditions, recognize the Nablus tomb as Joseph's tomb. For thousands of years, Jews have made pilgrimages to it.


In a clash near this tomb in October 2000, just before the start of the Second Intifada, seventeen Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed. On October 7, the same year, Israeli troops left the area, handing it over to Palestinians.


A mob of Palestinian fanatics desecrated the tomb shortly after, destroying the ancient shrine in a matter of hours.


Israel will appeal to the Palestinian authorities, requesting that the tomb of Joseph in Nablus be restored.


"Righteous Joseph symbolizes overcoming crises with the help of faith," Olmert wrote.


The Palestinians began work on the tomb's reconstruction and restoration. It has been repaired and is now operational.


Location and structure of Joseph's Tomb


The existing structure in the complex was probably built in the 19th century. In the burial chamber is the tombstone identified with the site of Joseph's grave, with two stone pillars on either side. Over the years, two more rooms were added to the building. The compound is located on the southeastern outskirts of the city of Nablus, near and north of the Balata refugee camp, east of Tel Balata, and at the foot of the eastern gate of ancient Nablus, which was discovered in the 20th century. According to Yoel Elitzur, the location of the compound indicates the precedence of the tradition regarding it, and its environment is flat and lower than its surroundings, is not typical of later folk traditions regarding other tombs, and is consistent with the scripture that Joseph was buried in the field.


Joseph's Tomb under Israeli control


The site was taken over by Israel following the Six-Day War. A member of the Dwikat family continued to patrol the area regularly and even worked for the Civil Administration. Several times in the 1990s, leftists (including then-Education Minister Shulamit Aloni) claimed that Joseph's tomb was Sheikh Yusuf's tomb.

A group of young people led by Romem Aldubi founded the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the tomb complex in 1982. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg oversaw the yeshiva, with the main room in the compound serving as the beit midrash. A permanent military security force was stationed at the site following the outbreak of the first intifada.


Joseph's Tomb after the Oslo Accords


The tomb complex is encapsulated under Israeli security control within Area A under complete Palestinian control, according to the Oslo II Agreement of 1995, after the Palestinians recognized the Jewish nature of the tomb and its importance to Jews. Furthermore, the road to it is in Area C, which Israel has complete control over. Initially, security was provided by a civilian security force.


The 1996 incident at the Tomb of Joseph compound and its consequences


On the eve of Sukkot 5767 (1996), the compound of Yosef's tomb was attacked with heavy fire, parallel to the riots in the Western Wall tunnel. Arab terrorists broke into Yosef's tomb, destroyed the yeshiva, and burned hundreds of holy books, which were later buried on Jerusalem's Mount of Beatitudes. The IDF soldiers escorted them out of the graveyard.

Uzi Dayan, the Central Command's commander-in-chief at the time, later claimed that he gave the Arab terrorists a 15-minute ultimatum to stop fighting and allow IDF forces to enter the area, and threatened to re-occupy Nablus. He claimed that the Arab terrorists had caved in to his ultimatum.

Following the incident in 1996, and in response to what was described as harassment of yeshiva students by the local Arab population and Palestinian police, the civilian security force was replaced in 1997 by a platoon-sized Border Police force. Furthermore, operational plans for the fortification and protection of the compound and the force residing within it were prepared but never implemented. For the IDF forces to join the tomb compound, a military plan (code name: "striped shirt") was devised. A plan (codenamed "Closed Garden") for the general evacuation of the tomb complex and the temporary transfer of control to Arab forces was devised, but settlement representatives, who were aware of the plan, were vehemently opposed to the departure of the Joseph Tomb complex, even temporarily.


The events of 2000 at Joseph's Tomb


Gunmen attacked the tomb complex in May 2000. An IDF officer was slightly injured in the incident and was evacuated from the compound four hours later in a coordinated manner by Palestinian forces.

The compound was evacuated by civilians on the orders of Shomron Brigade Commander Yossi Adiri in October 2000, with the start of the Temple Mount riots that heralded the outbreak of the second intifada and information about an intention to attack and take over the buildings. As instructed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, his request to evacuate the military force was denied.


Shortly after, the compound and its small force (12 Border Police officers) were attacked by a large group of armed Palestinian policemen dressed in civilian clothes, as well as a large crowd that threw Molotov cocktails and stones at the compound from the roofs of nearby buildings. Who has previously collaborated with them on joint tours by the Oslo Accords? The battles were led by the brigade commander Adiri, the border commander Yitzhak Dadon, and the deputy head of the Shin Bet from Tel a-Ras on Mount Gerizim, which overlooks the tomb. Shaul Mofaz, Chief of Staff, and Bnei Gantz, Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, both visited the site and observed the battles.

At the start of the riots on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Palestinians claimed that six protesters had been killed. They set out to attack Yosef's tomb immediately after their mass funeral on the second day of Rosh Hashanah (October 1, 2000), carrying Hezbollah, Hamas, and PLO flags. On Jibril Rajoub's promise to ask Mofaz, there have been futile attempts to coordinate his rescue with Palestinian police. Rajoub later claimed that the Palestinian casualties were the reason he was unable to coordinate a return. The force that guarded the compound was replaced several times over the next few days, each time inside Palestinian vehicles and escorted by Palestinian police. Yosef's body was also exhumed in a Palestinian ambulance accompanied by armed Palestinian police. After six days of fighting, the IDF withdrew from the compound on October 7, 2000.


Despite a Palestinian promise to guard the compound, Palestinians broke into the grave and set it on fire, looting and destroying its contents. The tomb's roof was then painted green, claiming that it was not Joseph's tomb but a Muslim holy site. On Shabbat Shuva, Hillel Eliyahu Lieberman, one of Od Yosef Yeshiva's founders, learned that the IDF had abandoned the site. He emerged from Elon Moreh and attempted to walk to the grave.

By the end of 2003, the structure and tomb had been destroyed in a series of attacks, leaving only the walls that surrounded the site. Despite their claims, Muslims continued to regard the site as a Jewish-only holy place. Since its departure, the compound has been vandalized and burned several times. The building's dome was also destroyed, and garbage was thrown at it.


Following the abandonment of Joseph's tomb, Jews in the area established a "learning point" near the southern entrance to Nablus called "Wandering in the Field," to commemorate the abandonment of Joseph's tomb. In addition, an observation and prayer point known as "Mitzpe Yosef" was established on Mount Gerizim, which overlooks the tomb.


The tomb structure was renovated in 2015 by the "Tomb of Yosef" on the initiative of Rabbi Elyakim Lebanon and the Shomron Regional Council's head, Yossi Dagan.










PHONE: +972 53 4779797