Saturday, 25 October 2008

NYT: Roots Of Faith & Strife

Photograph © Rina Castelnuovo/The New York Times

The New York Times featured a slideshow of Rina Castelnuovo's photographs of Joseph’s Tomb, a stone compound in the heart of Nablus that "many Jews believe is the final burial place of the son of Jacob, the biblical patriarch." The accompanying article is by Isabel Kershner.

The article reports that ardent and devout Jewish pilgrims, accompanied by Israeli soldiers, arrive throughout mornings' early hours to pray and worship at the site. Their goal is to make such visits weekly, and to re-establish a permanent presence that existed before 2000 so that Jewish pilgrims will able to come as they wish.

Some Palestinians declared the tomb an Islamic holy site and painted the dome green, justifying the declaration since Joseph is considered a prophet in Islam, and his story is related extensively in the Qur'an. Amazingly, after the city of Nablus was handed over to the Palestinians, a mob ransacked the structure, smashing the dome with pickaxes and setting the compound on fire. Naturally, this was probably done to prevent Jewish orthodox settlers to lay claim on the tomb...in other words, "we'll destroy a religious site so that no one can claim it as their own". There are always two sides to each story but the religious xenophobia from both Jews and Muslims is just staggering.

Anyway, back to photography: Ms Castelnuovo's photograph above of Orthodox Jews throwing themselves on the grave of Joseph is in my view the most powerful in the slideshow.