Joseph's Tomb

Joseph’s Tomb, early 1900s

Shortly after a raging mob demolished the traditional site of Joseph’s tomb near ancient Shechem, first dismantling it stone by stone and then setting it aflame, a newspaper reporter called me for comment. Like most people, I was sickened by the violence. He wanted to know about endangered archaeological sites.

The hate, the fierceness of the anger, the crowd behavior was new, but unfortunately the lack of respect for ancient Jewish sites was not. Within days of the destruction of Joseph’s tomb, another stone-throwing mob destroyed an ancient synagogue in Jericho with a simply lovely mosaic floor that had been in pristine condition. Dating to the Byzantine period, the mosaic featured a stylized Torah ark in the center and, just below, a circle containing a three-footed menorah, a shofar (ram’s horn), a lulav (palm frond used on the festival of Sukkot) and a Hebrew inscription from Psalm 125- Shalom al Yisroel, “Peace unto Israel.” The destruction of this building violates an express provision of the Oslo accords, which gave Jericho to the Palestinian Authority on the condition that it protect this synagogue and assure Jewish access to it.

Read the rest of Holy Targets: Joseph’s Tomb Is Just the Latest in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.