Monday, April 20, 2009

A Walk through Palestinian Authority

One of the off shoots of the 'Peace Process' has been limiting access to Jewish holy sites. It is illeagal for Israeli citizens to enter Palesinian Territory Last night was the supposed Yahrtzeit of Yoshua ben Nun. It is located in what is called area A. The PA is in charge but the IDF is responsible for security. It was only one of two nights a year where Jews have access to his Kever. When I found out that Rafi G. was going I arranged to hitch a ride. (Thank Rafi).

The kever is located near Ariel in the Shomron. The drive in was uneventful with a check point when crossing the Green Line. There was a truck full of live Turkies that had been pulled over. There was a road that had been closed for the night to be used for parking.

The Kever was supposed to be open from 10:00pm to 4:30am with those already in the village allowed to stay for Nes. We arrived at around 10:30. There was a giant command post set up where we all waited. Their were Army vehicles driving back and forth with one officer controlling the crowd. Everytime he took a step back the crowd would move closer and closer. At one point he took a couple of steps back and told the crowd to stop. They took this as he meant go and started moving in before he got things under control. The way people were crowding around it was like watching the starting line for a marathon. The waiting allowed the Army photographers to get in lots of pictures of the crowd. At 10:45 we were finally able to go.

We walked for a few minutes until we arrived at the gate to the village. They kept having to yell 'Savlanut' (Patience) until the gate was ready to open and the charge began. Towards the outskirts of the town there were large homes spread out amongst many olive trees. People couldn't help put notice the giant chandlier in one house when they turned on their lights for a few minutes.

We eventually hit some smaller homes before coming to the more commercial area of town. The first stop was the Kever of Calev ben Yafuneh. We had to go through a small court yard and then duck to get into the kever. There was lots of davening and eventually they blew shofar. As we were getting ready to leave we saw Yaakov Yosef the son of Rav Ovadiah. This caused us to stay a touch longer.

We continue to walk up the hill into the main part of town. There was a major square that was the centre of the action outside of Kever Yehoshua ben Nun. The Kever was not very far from the mosque. A new school was being built immediatly behind the Kever and the municipal offices appeared to be the next building over. The Kever had a narrow courtyard to go in. We had to duck to arrive into a room with no roof. We then had to duck again to get into the kever. The room was boiling hot and it was hard to breath. I had to use my Israeli elbows instead of my Canadian manners to navitgate the kever. Once again we were joined by Yaakov Yosef. Alienu was to be resighted every hour as Yehoshua was the author. We didn't last long enough for that part.

Outside of the kever their were refreshments: drinks, pastries and Yerushlmi Kugel. Once we were done it was time to head down the hill to the Kever of Nun, father of Yehoshua. The path was fairly dark. At one point there were 3 soldiers standing on a hill and all you could see was their glow sticks. I had never thought of glow sticks as military equipment before. We spent a little bit of time at the Kever before heading back to the square.

At the square we ran into Ichud Leumi MK Michael Ben-Ari. There was a tent where Chabad was set up (they do Kiruv everywhere) plus some other tables with refreshments or collecting money. We then made our way back towards the main entrance and the road where the car was parked.

It is amazing to think that if I wanted to do the same thing tonight I would be arrested. Last night I had full IDF protection. The next major Kever like this is Kever Yoseph. It requires armoured buses with a full IDF escort because it is in Shchem which is major PA territory. As it was the first Jewish holy sight destroyed from the Oslo agreements, I am curious to see what has become of it. It probably won't be on the agenda for this year.

Kever visiting is usually not my type of thing. As a once in a lifetime experience it was very much worth doing. Pictures to follow.

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