1981—2012: From Dolphinarium to Joseph’s Tomb
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In the proposed plan, the Dolphinarium will make way for a new section of Tel Aviv’s promenade, linking the city with the promenade continuing into Jaffa. The owner of the Dolphinarium, Buchmann, will receive land from the municipality. The plot is just across the street from the Dolphinarium, east of Hakovshim and Herbert Samuel streets. There, he will build a hotel and residential complex spread across two hi-rise towers 100 meters high, each with commercial space on the ground floor. Since this is one of the most exclusive locations in the country, huge financial profits are expected for all the parties involved. Where are the crowds that stood for hours at the Dolphinarium’s entrance, praying for a ticket before the end of the evening? Israel changed vastly since 1981; nowadays it seems the crowds are east from there, fighting with equal fervor for entering a new type of “blue-and-white Disneyland.” Nowadays, such a park must be designed for an ultra-Orthodox, kosher-obsessed, crowd. Accordingly, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus is at the center of a struggle between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Joseph’s Tomb Odd Charm
Located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, in Nablus (“Shchem” in Hebrew, the name means “shoulder”), Joseph’s Tomb is where tradition locates the tomb of Joseph, son of Jacob. The present structure dates from 1868, and is composed of a small rectangular room with a cenotaph, an empty tomb acting as a memorial site. Together with the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, this is one of the most venerated tomb site in the Holy Land. All these sites create singular security issues due to the large number of pilgrims from various religions visiting them, and the delicate political situation in their surroundings.
The most violent event happened in the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, following tensions created by the Oslo Accords of September 1993. In the following February, Baruch Goldstein—an Israeli-American settler—took part in a shooting spree in the cave. He left 29 Palestinian Muslims dead and scores injured. The subsequent riots resulted in additional 35 deaths (see USA Denies Visa to Jewish Knesset Member for actual implications). Also Joseph’s Tomb has experienced violence.
Several instances of shootings in the area of the tomb were reported in past years. In order to avoid similar events, the IDF imposed various limitations on the daily number of Jewish pilgrims allowed to visit the site, with occasional total bans on the visits. As of now, the site is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but at least one Israeli minister is calling for changes. In late November 2011, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (from the Sephardic-Haredi party Shas) visited the tomb together with 1,500 Jewish worshippers, and said “the tomb belongs to us and we must resume full control.”
One of the results on the limitations of allowed pilgrims, is night assaults on the compound. Bratslav Hasidim often try to enter the compound at night, without authorization or coordination with the IDF and the Palestinian security forces. To prevent these infiltrations, the Palestinian Authority has now stationed cameras on the road leading to the compound and inside it. Moreover, a fence has been erected around the site and heavy bars have been installed on all windows. As of now, the measure has proven effective, to the extent that the Hasidim have begun a public campaign in Nablus. They are distributing Arabic and Hebrew flyers reading:
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