According to Jewish tradition, the biblical patriarch Joseph was buried in the town of Shechem. The four-thousand-year-old city has a rich biblical history. Shechem was Abraham’s first stop after entering the Promised Land. Jacob bought a plot of land on the outskirts of the city. It was also where Joseph’s brothers were tending their herds when they captured Joseph and sold him into slavery. Years later, when Joseph passed away in Egypt, Jews returned his remains to Israel and buried him in the plot of land Jacob had bought near Shechem.
The city played an important role during the period of the Prophets and the Kings. When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, the Romans changed Shechem’s name to Neapolis (New City) and it became Nablus. Today Shechem (Nablus) is a large city in the Palestinian Authority area of the West Bank. Although experts don’t agree about the exact location of Joseph’s burial site, the tomb in Nablus is a Jewish shrine.
Joseph’s Tomb Today
In 1926 Jewish residents in Shechem fled from Arab attacks. It was only following the 1967 Six-Day War, that Jews regained access to Joseph’s Tomb. In the 1980s, a Jewish Seminary was built alongside the tomb and an Israeli military outpost was charged with protecting the students. In 1995 Palestinians gained authority over Nablus, but Israel remained in control of Joseph’s Tomb.
Then in 2000 conflict between Israelis and Palestinians erupted around the tomb resulting in the ransacking of the site and the death of an American-born Rabbi from the seminary. All trust was lost over the protection of the shrine by Palestinian Authorities. In 2015, there was further unrest and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians at the tomb. Today groups of religious Jews occasionally make a pilgrimage to the tomb under heavy military protection. Depending on the political situation, it may be possible to visit Joseph’s Tomb as part of a tour of the West Bank.