Just four times a year, the IDF opens the Arab village Timnat Hares for Jewish visitors to the graves of the Biblical Caleb and Joshua. Joshua, the great Jewish leader and successor to Moses. Outside the entrance to Timnat Hares, the mountaintop mentioned in the Book of Joshua, and now home to the Arab village Kefel Hares. Jews come to pray and to invoke the merit of Joshua bin [son of] Nun, Calev ben [son of] Yefuneh, and of course Nun. Nun is Joshua’s father – the tomb of Nun, is located away from that of Joshua and Calev (Caleb).
Joshua and Calev were both warriors and religious leaders – the lone voices among the twelve spies sent by Moses to scout out the Land of Israel who brought back a favorable report of the land, encouraging the Jewish people to trust G-d and fight for the Promised Land. Forty years later they led the young Jewish nation to conquer the Land of Israel.”And Calev silenced the people before Moses, declaring, ‘We shall surely ascend and conquer it, for we can surely do it!’ [Numbers 13:30].” “The Land is very, very good [Numbers 14:7],” the two Jewish heroes reported back 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.
The tomb of Calev ben Yefuneh, the mighty conqueror of Hevron and Joshua’s sole ally in proclaiming the Land of Israel to be both conquerable and desirable. Visiting Calev’s grave is of special significance, as tradition has it that Calev himself visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron when he first visited Israel on behalf of Moses.
Tomb of Calev ben Yefuneh
The Tomb of Calev is a domed structure with a stone courtyard in front, and a smaller domed structure to the left. It has been surrounded on two sides by an Arab graveyard. Garbage was strewn about the area, and there was a subtle smell of decaying fish. Two towering cypress trees graced the courtyard, as well as a mighty cedar.
Tomb of Calev ben Yefuneh 2
Inside, words of prayer and melodic readings of Psalms and the Torah verses recounting Calev’s deeds and worshippers were fully beseeching Calev to once again convey his faith and confidence to the hearts of the Jewish people.
Tomb of Calev ben Yefuneh 3
Tomb of Calev ben Yefuneh 4
Continuing up the road, is the square where Joshua’s Tomb is located. It has been festooned in Hamas flags of multiple shapes and sizes, the largest with gold trim and a handwritten “Allahu Akbar”
Hamas flags fluttering above Joshua's Tomb
Joshua, led the Jewish people across the Jordan River, and later around the walls of Jericho seven times until they sank into the ground.
Men praying at Joshua's Tomb
Women praying at Joshua's Tomb
The inner courtyard of Joshua's Tomb
A fire made up of hundreds of small candles burned outside the tomb. A nearby sign declares that Belgium is building a massive complex that will tower above the tomb. The doorway leading in is only about four feet tall and we have to first wait for the stream of people leaving to ebb before ducking and making our way in. Inside is a courtyard, shaded by an enormous fragrant tree.
Fragrant Tree at Joshua's Tomb
Fragrant Tree at Joshua's Tomb 2
Another, even lower and narrower door leads into the actual tomb. To the left of the door has been spray painted “Joshua” in blue Hebrew letters. On the opposite side of the small courtyard, “FATEH” is written in red capital English letters.
Praying at Joshua's Tomb
Though the walls of Jericho came tumbling down under Joshua’s leadership. The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, provided assurances that Jewish worshipers would have continued access to religious sites. Local Arabs have already attempted to destroy the tomb. On Yom Kippur, October 10, 2000 rioters approached the tomb but were prevented from doing serious harm by IDF troops.