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'War of the shrines' stirs tension between Palestinians, Israelis

The fate of the West Bank’s holy sites is the subject of intense competition between Palestinian historical narratives and the theological discourse of the settlement movement. They are also key targets for settlement activities.
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man prays next to candles in the Tomb of Caleb Ben Yefuneh in the West Bank village of Kifl Hares, near the Jewish settlement of Ariel, January 5, 2012. The Israeli army late on Wednesday night allowed hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews to visit the tombs of biblical figures Joshua Ben Nun and Caleb Ben Yefuneh, on the traditional Jewish calendar date dedicated to commemorating people whose date of death is unknown. REUTERS/Nir Elias (WEST BANK - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS) - RTR2VWDO

Israeli settlers raided the village of Kifl Hares in Salfit province in the northern West Bank on Jan. 8. It was not the first time, and it will not be the last. Every Jewish holiday, hundreds of Israeli settlers, under the protection of Israeli soldiers, enter Kifl Hares to pray in the village on the grounds that it is linked to the Jewish prophet Joshua.

The phenomenon is not restricted to this village. The war of the shrines has pitted Israeli settlers against Palestinians since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. The settlers have been trying to impose their control over them on religious grounds, using biblical stories to lay claim to them and the land surrounding them.

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