CBNNews.com - SHECHEM, Israel - Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers accompanied a group of Israelis visiting Joseph's Tomb on Wednesday evening in biblical Shechem (Nablus).
The site was one of the first to be desecrated in the fall of 2000, at the beginning of the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising).
In the ensuing eight years, the tomb has been the target of vandalism, where tires have been burned and massive amounts of garbage dumped.
On Monday evening, when a group of ultra-Orthodox Breslov hassidim, members of the Committee of Samaria Dwellers, arrived at the gravesite to clean and renovate it, they found that some local Arabs had already begun the cleanup.
"We thank the IDF security forces and the Arabs who took part," one man told YNet news, calling it "a positive turnaround" and a "liberation," which they hoped would continue.
Earlier this year, the Shomron Regional Council and the Shechem Echad organization arranged visits to Joseph's Tomb, accompanied by IDF soldiers.
Israelis were appalled by the condition of the tomb, and the decision was made to try to restore it.
On Wednesday evening at the newly restored site, some remembered the fierce battle that took place there on October 1, 2000.
During the firefight, 19-year-old Madhat Yusef, an IDF Border Police corporal from the Druze village of Beit Jann, was shot in the neck.
Cpl. Yusef bled to death during the five hours that Israeli medics were prevented from evacuating him.
Immediately after his body was recovered, an Arab mob flooded the site, razing the synagogue and burning its contents.
A week later, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, now serving as defense minister, ordered IDF troops to abandon Joseph's Tomb.
In July 2007, the Olmert government razed a synagogue built near Shechem, on Mount Gerizim.
The Civil Lands Administration claimed the structure was built without a permit and wasn't really a synagogue.
Sources: YNet news, israel national news