Dateline: The Muqata.
Time: Thursday evening, June 15, 9:25 PM. (last Thursday night)
I'm about to leave my house and walk to the nightly shiur I try to attend, when I received a message on my IDF beeper:
"Good Evening. Tonight there will be special access to kivrei tzaddikim in Chares between the hours of 00:00 and 04:00"
In civilianese, this means the following:
"Good Evening. Tonight is one of those rare occasions when the IDF will be allowing access to the Arab village "Kifal Chares" -- so that people can visit/daven at the graves of Yehoshua bin Nun, Calev ben Yifuneh, and Nun (the father of Yehoshua, but we don't know what Nun's father's name was). Park your car in Ariel and walk 15 minutes into the village. We only sent out this beeper message at the last minute to prevent terrorists from knowing exactly when we were planning this incursion. From midnight to 4 AM only, to keep the interaction between Jews and Palestinians to a minimum. See you there! Love, IDF Operations"
This is definitely not something that happens every day -- in fact, it's open maybe 3-4 times a year. In honor of the week's parashat hashavua, "Shlach", where Yehoshua and Calev are prominently featured, it's customary that during this week (if possible), the IDF coordinates access to the village.
From Parashat Shlach:
The Land is very, very good [Numbers 14:7]," the two Jewish heroes reported back to the Jewish nation, which had been waiting for the report of the twelve spies sent to scout out the fortifications and specifications of the local inhabitants' defenses. "You should not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread," declared Calev.
Where is this place anyway? Let's have google maps give us a bird's eye view.
I'm sure some of you must be thinking, "Yeah, right. This couldn't possibly be the grave of Yehoshua." Let's take a closer look at this village. Note: this is an excellent educational opportunity to print this out and share it over shabbat with your friends in Chutz La'aretz...since for you Parashat Shlach is read this week.
The description of Yehoshua's burial site in Sefer Shoftim (chapter 2: pesukim 8-9) reads as follows:
ט וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אוֹתוֹ בִּגְבוּל נַחֲלָתוֹ, בְּתִמְנַת-חֶרֶס בְּהַר אֶפְרָיִם, מִצְּפוֹן, לְהַר-גָּעַשׁ.
Yehoshua was buried at the edge of his tribe's section of land, in Timnat Cheres on Mount Efrayim, North of Har-Gaash (the modern translation of Har Ga'ash in a volcano, but we don't know of any active volcanoes in Eretz Yisrael...not even 3000 years ago)
The boundary of Efrayim's section was "Nachal Kana" as mentioned in Yehoshua (chapter 15, pesukim 5-8)
ה וַיְהִי גְּבוּל בְּנֵי-אֶפְרַיִם, לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם; וַיְהִי גְּבוּל נַחֲלָתָם, מִזְרָחָה, עַטְרוֹת אַדָּר, עַד-בֵּית חוֹרֹן עֶלְיוֹן.
ו וְיָצָא הַגְּבוּל הַיָּמָּה, הַמִּכְמְתָת מִצָּפוֹן, וְנָסַב הַגְּבוּל מִזְרָחָה, תַּאֲנַת שִׁלֹה; וְעָבַר אוֹתוֹ, מִמִּזְרַח יָנוֹחָה.
ז וְיָרַד מִיָּנוֹחָה, עֲטָרוֹת וְנַעֲרָתָה; וּפָגַע, בִּירִיחוֹ, וְיָצָא, הַיַּרְדֵּן.
ח מִתַּפּוּחַ יֵלֵךְ הַגְּבוּל יָמָּה, נַחַל קָנָה, וְהָיוּ תֹצְאֹתָיו, הַיָּמָּה; זֹאת, נַחֲלַת מַטֵּה בְנֵי-אֶפְרַיִם--לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם
Nachal (Wadi) Kana is a known landmark, the village Timnat Chares is very similar to the Arabic name of Kifel Chares, and the Arabs themselves have the mesora that these 3 graves are those of Yehoshua, Calev and Nun.
Fine. Enough background for now -- let's continue on:
I call up our local security officer and ask him where exactly we park our cars for this excursion and he said he'd call me back in a few minutes. I go off to shiur, and then get a message from the IDF: We want you to come with your yishuv's 4x4 security vehicle and bring the emergency (generator-based) lighting system. Other yishuvim are sending their lighting system and we want to borrow yours as well.
If they ask, and I'm going anyway, it's fine with me. The good news is that I get to drive right into the village and don't have to park far away/wait/walk/etc.
I informed a friend from the yishuv about this opportunity and he jumps at it. We leave at 11:30 PM, and drive through the winding, dark mountain roads of the Shomron. Arriving at 12:15 at the entrance to the village of Kifel Chares, the IDF sentry radios ahead that we've arrived. A high ranking officer runs over and can't stop thanking us for bringing the emergency lighting...(when it was really our pleasure all along.) Giving us the VIP treatment (or actually giving homage to the emergency lighting vehicle U-Haul connected to our 4x4), we are escorted by a jeep in front of us and behind, to lead us through the village. Our emergency strobe lights are flashing yellow around and round giving the landscape a very eerie look.
What a friendly place this is!
Green Hamas flags are flying everywhere and posters from the recent PA elections adorn almost every building.
I will admit, this was very surrealistic -- something out of a scene from a movie, as we snake through the narrow streets of the village. Every 20 feet is another solider or two standing alert...and the walls are covered in Arabic graffiti.
I recognized this artwork as that of the PFLP terror group:
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the terrorist group responsible for the murder of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi.
Finally, we park our 4x4 across from Kever Nun, set up the emegency lighting, and take some pictures.
The edge of the Kever is covered with grape vines, and someone comes up to me and says I should take some, since it's a segula for children. I politely declined...but thanked him in any event, since he was just tring to be helpful.
There were 3 types of people milling around (not including soldiers):
Chareidim/Chassidim who came on 3 bulletproofed buses from Jerusalem (this was the majority of the people there).
Carlebach-type/Noar Hagvaot Settler-type (hippi-ish with guitars, bongo drums and huge wool crocheted kippot)
Modern Religious and blend-into-society-settler types (less than 20 of those).
We started walking to Kever Yehoshua bin Nun through the dark streets, illuminated by green stick-lights every 20 feet. Some soldiers were standing on the street, others atop strategic positions overlooking the street.
A group of kids came up behind me singing very loudly and I yelled at them to shut up. I told them it's the middle of the night and people are sleeping...and if that didn't appeal to them, they should know that if they cause problems the IDF won't let anyone visit here for a long time. They lowered their noise a bit and decided I must be police/shabak or something, because of my civilian clothes and counter-terror M16.
We arrived at Kever Yehoshua, and repeated the same as we did by the grave of his father.
Pictures. Tehillim. Davening.
And then on to Kever Calev ben Yefuneh...we were doing alot of walking! And the time was flying by. I couldn't believe how fast the time passed. It was already 2:30 PM.
Two guys outside the Kever of Calev Ben Yifuneh
The entrance to Kever Calev ben Yefuneh.
Scouting around the building, we entered the building which houses the Kever.
Kever Calev ben Yefuneh was definitely the most impressive of all 3 graves we visited. There was a green cloth cover over the matzeva, which reminded me of the one from Kever Yosef where I had been privileged to visit just 3 days before the current Intifada war broke out 5 years ago.
Spent a while here as well.
It was close to 3:00 AM, so we decided to start walking back to the Kever of Nun (that's where our 4x4 was).
Took a picture of this sign...which declared that a Palestinian Authority infrastructure project was underway, funded by the Belgian government. Unfortunately for the residents of this village, all I saw was the sign...and no indication of any projects going on anywhere.
Continuing down the dark street, we found a bag on the floor near a house. Surprise -- it was from Tiffany's! I didn't realize that in the midst of this rather tired and bombed out looking village, there was a Tiffany's branch. Five Towns and Teaneck Residents -- make sure you stop here on your next trip to Israel!
When we reached the Kever of Nun, there were alot more people there than a few hours earlier. Lots of soldiers were coming up say tehillim and daven. These weren't religious soldiers at all...but felt it was important to say some tehillim at this place which was rarely opened to the public. I saw female combat soldiers come over as well, go to the section cordoned off for women, and daven. One female soldier arrived wearing a standard-IDF-uniform-issue (but rarely seen) olive-colored skirt. She went over and quietly swayed back and forth as she poured out her heart in davening.
Senior officers praying with Visitors.
It was now 3:30...and we were supposed to start packing up to head home. I looked around and took one last picture -- a sabras tree. In the middle of this village, alongside the grave of Nun, was a huge tree, heavily laden with the sabra prickly fruit.
I arrived home close to 4:30 AM, exhausted, but elated that I was privileged to daven at the burial site of these historic individuals. It's events like this that remind me how privledged I am to live in Israel, despite the occasional difficulties. Experiencing the historic connection to the land of Israel on such a physical level of being able to actually visit these places, is one of the most profound Biblical realizations of our return home as a people, to our homeland.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael