By Jewish calendrical reckoning, today (1 Tammuz, 5773) is both the birthdate (in 1562 BCE) and death date (110 years later) of Joseph, the favored child among the twelve sons and one daughter of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at age 17, according to both the Torah and the Koran, then imprisoned in Egypt for twelve years before emerging as a dream interpreter and soon becoming viceroy of Egypt. In preparation for a predicted seven-year famine, Joseph “socialized” Egypt’s agricultural harvest in Pharaoh’s name. The famine brought his brothers to Egypt in search of grain, and Joseph eventually revealed himself and reconciled with them, then resettled all his family — 70 people in all — in Egypt. From these grew the twelve tribes of Israel, whom a “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” enslaved, giving rise to the fundamental story of uprising, liberation, and covenant that has defined Jewish identity through the ages. A site known as Joseph’s Tomb sits in Shechem (the West Bank city of Nablus). It has been officially under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority since 1993. Palestinians attacked the site in the 2000 intifada, and Israel seized it during its 2002 reoccupation of Nablus. The current structure is thought to have been built within the past three centuries; Muslims now claim it as the burial site of an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Yussuf (Joseph) Dawiqat, and suggest that the biblical Joseph is buried in Hebron, next to the Cave of the Patriarchs, where there stands a medieval structure, the Castle of Joseph.
“But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his self: she fastened the doors, and said: ‘Now come, thou!” He said: ‘Allah forbid! Truly (thy husband) is my lord! he made my sojourn agreeable! Truly to no good come those who do wrong!’ And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus . . . that We might turn away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds: for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified.”—Koran, sura 12