Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims flocked to Hevron on Monday for a rare opportunity to visit the tomb of Othniel ben Kenaz, the first of the Jewish judges to rule the Israelites after the death of Joshua.
The tomb is located in the Palestinian-controlled section of Hevron (which encompasses the vast majority of the holy city), and thus is rarely accessible to Jews – despite being located just a few hundred meters west of the Jewish community. However, in honor of Passover the IDF facilitated the visit of several hundred Jewish worshipers.
The site was part of the ancient Jewish community of Hevron until the 1929 Massacre, during which local Arabs ethnically-cleansed the Jewish population. Upon its reestablishment after 1967, the Jewish community was not granted regular access to the site, though as noted the IDF facilitates periodic visits.
The pilgrimage was conducted under very heavy security, and in several phases.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, the local Judea Brigade Commander hailed the successful operation, which he said illustrated "the high sense of security" provided by security forces.
"For me personally, it was inspiring to see the hundreds of visitors, (Israeli) citizens together with Jewish tourists from abroad, on a secure trip to the tomb of Othniel ben Kenaz. We are proud to have escorted this visit."