Jun 10, 2007

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Central Shomron: Kifl Harsa: Kever Yehoshua: The Sin of the Spies

The day began with Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Knesset and a former head of the Jewish Agency, along with a former leader of the Labor Party and son of Yosef Burg, one of the founders of the National Zionist Party, granting an interview to the Ha'Aretz newspaper.

The interview was on the occasion of the publication of his newly published book, "Defeating Hitler". Burg was pretty much tossed out of Israeli politics when he lost his position near the top of the Labor Party. He chose not to fight to get back on top and instead left Israel and went into international business, basing himself in Europe, specifically France.

He spoke about how anybody who can possibly get himself a foreign passport should do so and leave Israel. He criticized the hanging of Eichmann, he compared Israel to Nazi Germany and more...

All this seemed inappropriate especially on the eve of the reading of the Torah portion Shlach, in which the story of the spies is related. The spies spoke ill of the Land of Israel in an attempt to dissuade the Jewish people from wanting to continue to travel towards the land. As a punishment, the trip was lengthened and all the people of the generation had to die in the desert before the Jewish Nation could enter Israel.

I found out that day that that night (Thursday night) the IDF would be opening the gravesite of Yehoshua Bin Nun to Jewish visitors. The grave of Yehoshua (and Calev and Nun - Yehoshua's father) is located in the middle of an Arab village called Kifl Harsa, in the Central Shomron, right across from the Israeli town of Ariel. The IDf only opens the location to Jews twice a year. Once on Yehoshua's yahrtzeit and the second time right before the reading of Parshat Shlach, due to Yehoshua and Calev having been two of the spies and the only two that tried to convinve the people to trust Hashem and enter Israel.

I went about two months ago, the first time they opened it up this year, and I decided I wanted to go the second time as well. If you do not remember, the previous time was a very spontaneous trip, and I barely made it. I ran to Jerusalem at 2:30 in the morning and managed to get on the last bus to Kever Yehoshua. This time I decided I did not want to do it like that. I did not want to waste all that time going to Jerusalem and waiting for a bus and fighting to get on, etc. I decided this time, for the first time, I would drive right up to the Arab village and go right in.

Kifl Harsa is different than Shchem (the site of Kever Yosef). When going to Shchem, one has to go to the Jewish areas nearby, park and get a bus in. There is no other choice. Shchem is a city and a very dangerous one to boot. One cannot just go right in. With Kifl Harsa, it is an Arab village and supposedly fairly dangerous if one were to wander in on his own, but when they open it to Jews, one can generally park on the outskirts of the village and walk in, as the army secures the area. It was still a bit tense, as I had never done so before and was not sure how easy or hard it would be to find.

So, at about 11:45 pm, after finishing my shiurim and chavrusas for the night, I went to pick up my partners in crime, Eliyahu (who has gone with me together a number of time to Kever Yosef) and tnspr569.

We first ran into the big accident you might have heard of in which a hatzala member was killed in a car accident in Bet Shemesh. They had shut down the road to clear the accident, so I had to drive around the other way. They had needed ambulances, firetrucks (to peel open the cars) and helicopters (not sure why). It was a high speed head on collision and two people were killed and one seriously injured.

Anyways, we get on the way and drive about 45 minutes to Kifl Harsa. This time I had a full tank of gas, so we would not have that aspect of the excitement that we had last time when we tried to go to Kever Yosef.

It was pretty easy to find. It was right off the side of the main highway. We pull into a dirt lot and park the car. It was already showing signs of being a busy night, with about 50 cars there and a couple of buses. They only opened the site at about 12am to Jews, and now it was about 12:45 or so.

We park and walk in the 3 kilometers or so through the village. It was pitch black, but there were a lot of people walking through and there were IDF soldiers stationed at every point the road curved. When walking in from the external parking lot, one first encounters the grave site of Calev Ben Yefuneh. We went in. The floodlights were off, so it was dark inside. People were using cellphones for illumination, so they could read from prayer books or special pamphlets passed around with special prayers for the site.

It got pretty crowded. The crowd was pretty mixed. Often the majority of people on these trips are Breslaver chassidim, with a lot of "settlers" and then a few yeshiva guys and random people (like me). This time there was just a big mix of people. A lot of "settlers", a lot of chassidim, some breslav but many other types as well, and a lot of yeshiva guys, and regular people (like me) as well. Isn't it amazing how I remain the "regular guy" no matter what the crowd is??

We daven by Calev for a bit, then it is time to move on. We move on and go up through the village to the site of Yehoshua's grave. The big crowd is there. The grave of Yehoshua is not demarcated, rather it is under the wall of the building marking the grave, so some people daven outside at the wall and some go inside.

The site of Yehoshua's grave is generally defaced with Arab graffiti. The IDF, before they let the Jews in, whitewashes over the graffiti with a fresh coat of paint. The paint was only about 90% dry, so people were coming out with whitewash smeared all over the jackets and hats. Inside the building is two small rooms, One is open-air (no roof) and the second is enclosed with a domed ceiling. They were both full of people praying and reading from the Torah portion about the spies and from the book of Joshua. Another prayer, aside from general tehillim, being said was the prayer of Aleinu, which was written by Yehoshua.

After davening for a bit there it was time to move on. We walked further through the village on to the site of Nun's grave. Nun was the father of Yehoshua. I know nothing else about him, but he is buried nearby, so went there as well.

Nun, in contrast to Calev and Yehoshua, has his grave right on the side of the road, with a big headstone (rather than in a building). We davened there and then went back to the grave site of Yehoshua. People were putting out refreshments, so we had something to drink, and then it was time to go home.

Just as we were leaving, the commander of the IDF unit securing the site drove up. I said thank you to him for making out entry possible. I also asked him why they do this at night. There is so much noise and disturbance, that I can't imagine why the Arabs only agree to let us in in the middle of the night. It must disturb their sleep. So why do they not get smart and let us in by day and not make trouble and then they can sleep at night. But instead of that, they don't want to see us, so they only let us in at night and then their whole night is disturbed!

People were making so much noise. Cars honking, people singing and dancing in the streets, general talking and prayers. A lot of noise for 2 in the morning in the middle of a village!

The commander told me they considered it but the one time they did so the Arabs stoned people, so the army decided even with agreement it is still safer at night.

We hike back to the car and head off back to home to catch some sleep. I had intended to run over to Hebron for sunrise morning services, but just could not get up with only 45 minutes of sleep (especially after having had only 2 hours of sleep the night before because of a late work night).

According to the news the next morning, I was one of (or we were three of) 1300 people who visited the site over the course of the night. As well, the news reported that a few people had desecrated a nearby Muslim cemetery. I did not see details of what they did in the cemetery, but it is wrong to desecrate any cemetery, even that of Muslims. The organizers of the event were quoted as to decrying the defacement, and declared it was just a few people who did so, while most people were respectful and did not make trouble.

At the same time that I say this, while our media make a big deal about how a few people desecrated the Muslim cemetery, no word is mentioned how the Arabs desecrated Jewish cemeteries. There was no mention of the graffiti sprayed all over the grave site of Yehoshua, that had to be painted over by the IDF before we got there. There is generally no word of the other Jewish grave sites in Muslim areas that get desecrated. There is generally no word and for sure no public outcry regarding the horrible desecration of Kever Yosef, which was burned down multiple times and demolished to rubble by the local Arabs.

Despite all this, it is wrong to desecrate a cemetery, but I wish the Jewish/Israeli media would be just as concerned about Jewish cemeteries and grave sites as non-Jewish ones...


  1. Yea my sources texted me about the event, I actually did reply to ynets article on the grafiti posting links of the grafiti pix you took last time.

  2. "regular" is relative.. I am sure most people thought of themselves as "regular" and you as the modern american baal habas...

  3. glad you had fun.

    met a fellow rbser today who knows you (allan from pittsburgh)

  4. ynet didnt even publish my talkback!

  5. on what article?

    not sure who allan is.. maybe by face? maybe I need his last name?


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