After visiting the ancient capital city of Sebastia (also known as Shomron, or Samaria), we drove north headed towards Jenin in our armoured convoy. I was participating in an educational and recreational day out for sergeant commanders of Kfir’s “Netzach Yehuda” Battalion and we were headed for the second stop of the day, Joseph’s Pit. But along the way we had a bit of excitement – entering one Palestinian village we were attacked by handfuls of Arab youth throwing huge rocks, molotov cocktails, fireworks and even small explosive charges. It was a very intense experience and kind of thrilling, mostly because I was driving a large armoured truck weighing approximately 13,000 kgs (28,660 lbs) with bulletproof windows and all. In this picture that a soldier from the command jeep in front of me took, you can see a large rock hitting the metal grate at my front windshield during the onslaught:
I have uploaded footage from this experience, filmed by the lieutenant in the passenger seat, onto YouTube. It’s no high-definition GoPro video but here it is: http://youtu.be/BFvL0v4XDtE (at 00:09 you can hear the explosion of the TNT charge that was thrown at my right rear tire area). After the excitement in the village we continued north on Road 60 until we came to the turn-off for Tel Dotan and Joseph’s Pit, just past the village of Araba. Driving on the incredibly bumpy dirt road, we approached the hill that is Tel Dotan.
Unfortunately, we were slightly pressed for time and weren’t able to fully visit the site. So we started with Joseph’s Pit – or shall I say, one of three possible pits – directly beside the dirt road.
To review the Biblical story, Jacob and his family had moved to the Holy Land and continued in their shepherding lifestyle. Joseph was sent by Jacob to locate his brothers who had gone out grazing from Hevron to Shechem; he found them at Dotan some twenty kilometres north of Shechem. It was there that they cast him into a pit and then sold him to Ishmaelite traders who took Joseph down to Egypt where he eventually rose in power to become a viceroy. Now, I have heard but cannot verify that there were two pits in the story and that one was filled with snakes and scorpions – the pit that Joseph spent the night in. So here and now there are three pits to choose from, although it’s possible that these aren’t the pits in question at all.
We had all gathered around these two pits and it was announced that we were waiting for the battalion commander to swing by with his command jeep to give a few words. Seizing this opportunity, as I’m not really involved in their command pyramid, I decided to go check out the third pit alone. Located inside an old stone house of sorts, the third pit is a the furthest from the dirt road, not far from the base of the tel.
I entered the old structure, seeing traditional vaulted rooms, arched doorways and the lone stone staircase built on strong arches. I wonder about the site’s history, but haven’t found anything online about it, especially because according to the Muslims (and agreed upon by the Crusaders), the site of Joseph’s Pit is in the Galilee next to Kibbutz Amiad just a few kilometres north of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The Muslim version is known as Jubb Yussef and a small kahn was built at the site somewhere between the 1200’s and the 1500’s to host pilgrims and passing travelers.
Inside the rooms, there were also more modern machinery – what looked like a pump of sorts; an assortment of pipes and a motor. I looked around for the pit, treading carefully, and then spotted light streaming in from a breach in the wall. Peering into the light, I looked down to see the third pit.
To recap, one of these pits are believed to have taken part in the famous Biblical story although it’s not certain to be any of them. After my look around I headed back to the group and we said goodbye to Jabo our tour guide as he got into the battalion commander’s jeep and headed out. We boarded and departed from the site in our convoy formation, heading back to the outpost of Mevo Dotan – a Jewish town built and named after the ancient region of Dotan – for a continuation of the day’s events. Hopefully one day I’ll have the opportunity to visit Tel Dotan, but as it is located in Palestinian controlled land, only time will tell.