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May 14, 2007

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Central Shomron: Kever Yosef

I am calling last nights events an adventure, rather than a tour/tiyul. The reason is because it was hardly a tour but very much an adventure.

During the day I found out that the trip to Kever Yosef, located in Shchem, a.k.a. Nablus, was going to be happening (thanks R'CZM).

According to the info, it was going to be happening with or without army permission. The army has not given permission to enter Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in a few years.

This day is considered special and uniquely associated with Yosef. The 41st day of the Omer is called Y'Sod She'b'ysod and somehow that relates to Yosef. Also, the date of his death is unknown but historically has been associated with the 41st day of the Omer. There has always been pilgrimages to pray at his gravesite on this day and until about 3 years ago the army would give permission to go in during the night and pray on this special day. I have been to Joseph's Tomb about 6 or 7 times in the past. I do not know what changed, but about 3 years ago the army stopped giving permission for this trip.

The people, and some politicians, were putting a lot of pressure on the army to give the ishurim for the trip. There were well over a thousand people who registered for the trip which was only announced a number of hours prior to the trip and spread by word of mouth. A thousand registered. Even more came at the last minute, when they heard about it but it was too late to register. As of 8 pm, there was still no final announcement of any ishur and people were making plans how to sneak in.
I have one friend who was planning to go with me who told me he will only go if there was no ishur. If there is an ishur it will be a waste of time, as they will limit it and we will not be able to do anything, but if there is no ishur it would be historic and he would not miss it.

Anyway, so after hearing about it and trying to get as much information as I could, Jameel and I spoke a number of times sharing info and trying to coordinate our plans.

After some miscalculations and delays in my schedule, I finally got to leave home towards Shchem at about 12:30 am. At that point I almost did not go because I had been delayed so much I figured there was no chance I would get in. Jameel told me (from on location outside of Shchem) that they were announcing more buses for 1:30 am or so. So I decided to take the chance and head out.

I went and picked up tnspr569 who had never been there and wanted to try going. We head out and go in the direction of the Shomron. I have never travelled much through the Shomron and not much recently. So there we are, on the dark road, with only less than a quarter tank of gas (I was in a rush when I left so I figured I would fill up later, after kever Yosef), in an area I am not too familiar with, in an area that is considered relatively dangerous.

So we are heading towards Tzomet Tapuach. That was the devlared meeting spot where the buses would pick people up and go into Shchem. Sometimes the trips have been from Itamar which is one of the closest Jewish yishuvim to Nablus, sometimes from Yitzhar, and sometimes from Tzomet Tapuach. This time it started out near Yitzhar at Tzomet Bat Shalosh (that is where Jameel got stuck after his run in with the police at Ariel), but then the staging point was moved back to Tzomet Tapuach.

So we finally make it at about 1:35 am. There were about 500 or so people in the parking lot at Tzomet Tapuach. Nobody knew what was going on and there was nobody in charge. Everyone is waiting to find a way in to Shchem. the sodiers and police were not being nice but were physically pushing people around. Even just to take two steps back for no particular reason. Nobody had anywhere to go, as it was all blocked off, but they would decide everyone had to stand only in a certain area and they would start shoving people around. Then they would let people wander around and then they would do it again.

Finally, after about twenty minutes of our standing there waiting, two buses show up. Right away they get mobbed as everyone swarms around them hoping to be among the select few to get a spot on the buses. Don't forget there are about 500 people and enough seats for 100 (if the buses would even be going into Shchem, at that point noboy knew).

The buses are being mobbed by people, and they have not even opened their doors! They drive around a bit making the people crazy (I wonder if the drivers were just trying to have a good time) as they followed the buses around, not wanting to miss the moment the doors would open to let them on.

Eventually one of the buses opened its doors. The people went crazy. There was fighting and pushing and shoving to get onto the bus. The police and soldiers had 3 or 4 reps on the bus at the door letting the next survivor of the mob on. They were also participating in the mob and they were shoving people off and pushing and hitting people. At one point we even saw a policeman grab somebody by the neck, choke him holding him like that for a minute or so while the guy's face tururned red, and then he threw the guy off the bus. tnspr569 was in terrible shock when he saw that! I have been by protests and rallies before where I witnessed police brutality, but I think that was the first time for tnspr569.

We decided not to fight the mob, and after the bus filled up, it drove about 10 feet and stopped. People were still mobbing it, trying to get on. The second bus was still dark and not moving.

After about 15 minutes of watching that bus just sit there and not move, we were pretty confident that our chances of getting into Shchem were dipping well into the negative numbers, so we decided to go home.

I got home about 3:30 am, pretty sure I was driving on fumes most of the way. There are very few gas stations open at that time of night. I found an open gas station near Bet Shemesh, and consider it a miracle that I made it that far. I was sure I would be spending the night on the side of the highway. I filled up the tank with 62 liters of gasoline, for a 65 liter tank! Man that was close!

At least we tried! According to the news, over the course of the night 10 buses were let in. That would be about 700 or so people. A friend of mine told me his brother got in. 700 got in, but probably double that tried to get n but could not.


  1. "We decided not to fight the mob"

    Good choice.

  2. actually I was inclined to fight the mob. I have experience with it and probably could have made the bus. But I had a travelling partner who would not, so i felt it was wrong to do it...

  3. Quite an adventure we had there.

    The brutality was shocking, and I was still kind of scared about actually going to Shechem. Aside from that, the mob was quite powerful, and it was us against them. We were pretty close to the bus door, but they were being very restrictive, allowing one person on at a time.

    Oh well; another time, hopefully.

  4. Violent mobs of people to go daven?

    The police, at least the atheists among them, have an excuse for their Nietzschean views on the acceptability of abuse.

    What's our excuse?

  5. Famous story: mobs of hassidim trying to get to eat the Rebbe's leftovers.

    Someone says to the Rebbe: "CHAYOS!"

    The Rebbe answers: "CHAYOS HAKOIDESH"

    Moral of the story? Now you know why the Beit HaMikdash needed a miracle to expand so that no one was ever cramped.

    Otherwise, we'd have a stampede.

  6. good answer, Jameel.

    I would also add that our excuse is we are human. A lot of people wanted to get there, after spending many hours of frustration standing around waiting with uncertainty. It is a rare event, as it is, and to be so close but so far can make a person crazy...

    I will add, that there were violent mobs of people fighting to get on, but there were also people who kept there humanity and did not fight to get on like "chayois hakoidesh". Maybe they felt it was hypocritical to fight like that when going to daven, or maybe they were just afraid of getting killed in the mob, but there were plenty of people who did not join the mob.

  7. I decided it wasn't worth risking my life to get there.

  8. Jameel -- cute drash, not p'shat.

    Rafi -- I didn't mean to imply that everyone was acting like an animal, or that frustration is not understandable after a long wait.

    Even a few would leave a horrible taste in my mouth; for sure a large enough crowd to merit the title mob. Whenever I see people pushing their way on to the 417, knocking aside women and little children with reckless abandon, I feel the same way...

    To bring some politics into it, why are the police different? Granted, they're _more_ violent... but is that a qualitative difference or quantitative? I assume the choking police officer probably started out just lightly hitting and shoving. They may be trained to be cool under pressure (ideally...), but aren't we also trained in proper middos?

    I'm going to go out on a limb here, and be somewhat offensive, and say that the same yetzer haros are found on both sides... and any limmud zechus should either be given to both sides, or neither (unless one group is clearly either r'shaim or tzaddim, and thus get special bonuses/reductions to their chiyuv of judgement l'kaf zechus.)

  9. that very well could be Mike. They lose their patience like anybody else, and I understand that.
    However the police have shown time and time again their level of violence and brutality, whenever there is a protest, especially right wing. We all thought it was limited to "settlers" and their supporters, but in the recent student protests, and then left wing protests by Hebron (on a much smaller scale albeit) they have shown that they very quickly resort to violence.
    I am willing to bet that they are not trained to have more patience under pressure, but to crack heads.

    Also, if you saw Jameels post (I do not remember how much of the details he put in, but he told me more than what was in his post), the police sent him on a wild goose chase for no reason. They sent him to the wrong place on purpose. Again, maybe they had a mtoive, like there were possibly already too many people and that was there way of getting more people to stop coming... who knows? but they deserve it less than others... though they are human and make mistakes as well...

  10. Rafi, What a shame you didn't get to go, but quite the adventure nonetheless!

  11. However the police have shown time and time again their level of violence and brutality, whenever there is a protest, especially right wing. We all thought it was limited to "settlers" and their supporters, but in the recent student protests, and then left wing protests by Hebron (on a much smaller scale albeit) they have shown that they very quickly resort to violence.

    Agreed. OTOH, we've tended to overlook what may, in retrospect, occasionally have been heavy handed treatment of our dear cousins, and perhaps we're paying for it now...

    I am willing to bet that they are not trained to have more patience under pressure, but to crack heads.


    They sent him to the wrong place on purpose.

    Well, to be fair, I've done that to him a few times too ;)

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not excusing the abominable behavior on the part of those who, in the old country, would have had the creed "to protect and to serve." I'm just pointing out that this might not be a pure case of a white hat / black hat showdown at dusk.

  12. oh, I don't think it was an "us against them" issue. It was pretty tense for them I am sure. They probably did not want to be there, but were forced to because of the political pressure, it was middle of the night and a dangerous place. A bunch of crazy breslavers and settlers most of whom would probably ignore instructions (at least in their minds) of safety and wander through the dangerous roads and forests if left on their own, etc..
    I was just saying what happened, that it got violent. Notice though that I said it from both sides, the violent mobs, and the violent police, though the mobs were not violent in the sense that they were beating people up - meaning it was not a riot or a lynching, but violent in the sense that they were pushing forward and people couild have gotten hurt unintentionally. The police were violent trying to thwart that.

  13. "A bunch of crazy breslavers and settlers"

    does crazy apply to both, or just the first?

  14. i forgot to ask: will you be needing a friendly couch again for the next few nights?

  15. ari - yes, crazy referred to both. I was saying what the police might be thinking. In their eyes, these people (me included) are probably crazy to want to go into shchem in the middle of the night to cry over a bunch of rocks...

    and thanks for the offer, but this time I will not be needing it... lol

  16. i don't know. maybe i'm just being a wimp, but i don't think it is such a good idea to "ignore instructions . . . of safety and wander through the dangerous roads and forests"

    i've posted my own pics fro kever yosef at http://agmk.blogspot.com/2007/05/my-pictures-from-kever-yosef.html

  17. it may not be such a good idea, but that is what would have happened.....

  18. B"H What?! You were in the neighbor in the middle of the night, and you and Jameel didn't even have the courtesy to stop by? How rude! ;-)

  19. sorry ben-yehuda. email me your cell phone number and next time I will... even at 2 am? Your number would have come in handy, considering how nervous I was about the gas situation..

  20. ben yehudah- Jameel would have had a harder time getting there, and he had been running around for a while already, with other passengers. Cut him some slack :)

    I hope I would've been allowed in, too, as I was tagging along with Rafi.


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