For First Time in 18 Years, Jews Pray at Biblical Tombs in Palestinian Village

Ultra-orthodox Jewish men attend the funeral of rabbi Yochanan Sofer, leader of the Erlau Hasidic sect, in Jerusalem on February 22, 2016 after he passed away at the age of 93.
GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty

(AFP) Hundreds of Israeli Jews held a rare prayer session by a mosque in a Palestinian village in the West Bank early Sunday, an AFP photographer said.

The Israeli army accompanied buses carrying over 300 ultra-Orthodox men, mostly from the Breslov Hasidic sect, to Younis mosque in Halhul, north of Hebron, where according to Jewish tradition biblical prophets Gad and Nathan are buried.

One worshiper told AFP it was the first time in 18 years that Jews were allowed to pray at the site, deep in a Palestinian-controlled area.

A military spokeswoman said the army and police forces accompanying the worshipers were attacked by Palestinians hurling “rocks and firebombs,” with the forces responding with riot dispersal means to “prevent further escalation.”

No injuries were reported, the spokeswoman said.

According to tradition, the graves are located inside the mosque, but the Jewish worshipers did not enter the holy site, rather holding an hour of pre-dawn prayers on the road outside before leaving, the photographer said.

There are a number of sites holy to Jews in Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank that are the site of pilgrimages.

Most popular are Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, and the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus.

On Friday, a Palestinian terrorist from Halhul rammed his car into Israeli civilians nearby, wounding two, before trying to stab soldiers and being shot.

The army arrested a number of his family members and imposed a partial closure on the village, which by Sunday had been lifted, the army said.

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