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Friday, February 3, 2012

Shiloh, Davka in the Middle of the Winter, 34 Years of Jewish Life

This Shabbat, we Jews in Shiloh are celebrating our return.  The City of Shiloh is central in Ancient, Biblical Jewish History.  It was the Capital City, location of the Mishkan, Tabernacle for 369 years.  Unlike many other popular spiritual and tourist sites in the Land of Israel, such as Rachel's Tomb, everyone agrees that Shiloh is Shiloh.

Actually, the original plan of those who ended up establishing the first Jewish community in the Shomron after the 1967 Six Days War had planned on coming to Shiloh for the obvious historical significance.  But they ended up complying with the government's condition/demand that they choose a location that had structures in which they could live.  The government hoped that it would be no more than a temporary "demonstration" and didn't want there to be the need to build at all.  That's why Ofra was chosen; there were Jordanian police/army barracks to move into.  Shiloh stayed on the list and the Ofra community hosted the Shiloh garrin, settlement group until the time was ripe and logistical problems could be solved.

Seven young families and a few singles moved to Shiloh on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, 5738, January, 1978, yes, this time of the year, thirty-four years ago.  Considering how much ordinary, everyday technology has advanced in those few decades, it's hard to imagine how those young families managed in what was then a very isolated location, accessed via an Arab village, no phones, electricity or reliable water supply.  The lived mostly in trailers and tents.  A simple generator was set up, and water was trucked in periodically.  An old, mostly destroyed building was given a new roof, and it served as the synagogue and yeshiva which had also been established.

When I visited Shiloh with our then young daughters, exactly 34 years ago on TU B'Shvat, there were just over thirty families living in trailers and cement prefabricated homes near Tel Shiloh.  I can't exactly say why, but I just felt that Shiloh was the place for us to live and raise our children.  Over the next few months we visited as a family a few times for Shabbat, met more people and decided to make it our home. 

We moved to Shiloh on September 1, 1981, the day the Shiloh elementary school, Ohel Shiloh, first began.  There were exactly eighteen students that day, divided into three grades, First, Second and Third.  Our second daughter was the oldest girl in the school.  Our eldest daughter had been driven to Ofra to study in their school with a few other children too old for the new Shiloh school.  By the end of September, the population of Shiloh had more than doubled from our first visit.  There were over sixty families and many more children.

Today Shiloh is a busy vibrant town of over three hundred families of all ages and from all over the world.  The main synagogue was built to resemble the Mishkan, Tabernacle, which had rested here for almost four hundred years in Biblical times. Our school is the district school, elementary education center, separately administered boys and girls schools educating the full eight grades.  Students come from as  far as the Jordan Valley to the east, Rechallim to the north, Maale Levona to the west and all of the smaller communities in between.  We have enrichment programs for the gifted and remedial for those who need them.

Shiloh has changed my life for the better.  I just can't imagine being any place else.  In thanks to those powerful figures, like the Biblical Chana, who once walked in this very place, I've established the custom of Women's Rosh Chodesh Prayers every month at Tel Shiloh.

The Rosh Chodesh Adar Women's Prayers at Tel Shiloh
Friday, February 24, 2012 8:30am
Shiur Torah, Short Tour & Torah Lesson
Please come and invite family, friends and neighbors

תפילת נשים ראש חודש אדר בתל שילה
יום ו' 24-2 8:30
יהיו סיור ודבר תורה קצרים
נא לבוא, לפרסם ולהזמין חברות, משפחה ושכנות

You're welcome to join our facebook page. Tel Shiloh is open to visitors daily. Tours can be arranged through the office. Email telshilo@gmail.com or phone 02-994-4019.
It's winter in Shiloh, and fruit trees, like the legendary grape vines and shkaydia, almond tree, is blooming already.  Out of season, the plants look dead, just like the Jewish People did in exile.  But we didn't die.  We're still alive and thriving, Baruch Hashem, thanks to G-d.

Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach
Have a Peaceful and Blessed Shabbat


sandra.vincent@btinternet.com said...

Thank you for this. Now I have everything I need to know for when I can make a visit! I have been learning about Shiloh in my Tanach class. Shabbat Shalom, Sandra

Batya said...

Wonderful, enjoy!

Ways of Zion said...

We loved it when we came. Avi brought us and it was one of the 4 places we stopped on our tour with him. Such an amazing place and such a moving place to visit as well. the children found it most incredible to be where we had read so much about in the Tanach. It was our favourite day of that trip to Israel and is on our list for our next trip (hopefully in 2014)

Batya said...

How wonderful. You'll see lots of changes.

rutimizrachi said...

Beautiful little slice of history, Batya. Thank you. What is the situation with the nearby Arab village now? How has your relationship with the inhabitants changed over the years? How has it been affected by Oslo, and the ensuing political machinations? (You've probably already written about it. Just direct me to any earlier blog posts, if you don't mind.) Thank you again for sharing your personal and our "family" history.

Batya said...

The nearby Arabs are very wealthy now. See: Shiloh Musings: Arab Mansions Part 1 which is an old post. There now are more and larger mansions all over the area, but not in Shiloh.