ON THE ROAD TO SHILO by Yocheved Aron

Our destination was Samaria, to visit several Jewish settlements. Wehad a superb guide, whose familiarity with the Tanach made our trip anexploration of our history. Heading north from Jerusalem we passed by somelovely communities, nestled in surrounding hills and gleaming a brilliantwhite in the distance.-houses built from similar stone to that seen everywherein Jerusalem. One rapidly growing community which serves as a suburb ofJerusalem is Ramot--it seems to be quite popular with American olim. Ihave heard that it is expanding so quickly that there are now offspringcalled Ramot Aleph, Ramot Bet, etc. It is wonderful to see all these newcommunities springing up around Jerusalem. Yet there are so many more hillsthat are untouched and yearning to be developed.

The main road we were traveling on was the pre-1967 border between Israeland Jordan. Within about 5 minutes after leaving Jerusalem we had alreadycrossed over the Green Line and entered Samaria, part of the West Bank,the land west of the Jordan River that Israel captured in the 1967 War.Our tour guide seemed to know the history of every hill and valley in Samaria.He told us of the Hasmoneans, like Judah Maccabee, who were hiding fromthe Greeks in these hills. Before 1929 there were Jewish inhabitants inthis area. In fact Moshe Sharett grew up in the small Arab village of Ein,and his family ran the only oilpress in town. About this time, a banditwas stalking these desolate hills, preying on unsuspecting travelers. TheBritish placed a large reward on his head--and (to the best of my memory)he was finally discovered by a Jew, who received a big monetary award fromthe British.

In the Samarian hills we visited a town that played a most significantrole in our history. Unfortunately Shilo does not get nearly as much attentionas its holy successor-Jerusalem. In the days of the Judges, the Mishkanwas placed in Shilo--and it remained there for 359 years. It was in Shilothat Eli, the High Priest ministered to the people. Hana, childless formany years, came to Shilo every year, praying that she would have a child--and whose life she would dedicate to serving G-d. .Finally she was blessedwith a son, who was named Samuel. After Hannah weaned her son, she broughthim to Eli, the High Priest as she had promised. At this time the Philistineswere constantly warring with the Israelites. After one major battle, aweary Jewish soldier walked the distance of a marathon (26 miles) up thehigh slope to Shilo to notify the Kohen Gadol that the Philistines haddefeated the Israelites and had also taken the Aron (Ark). Upon hearingthis tragic news Eli, the High Priest, fell backwards in his chair, hithis head, fell to the floor, and died. This tragedy forshadowed the endfor Shilo.. It wasn't until King David united all the tribes into his kingdomthat a new religious site was established--the Beis HaMikdash (Temple)in Jerusalem.

There are lots of towns named Shilo in America , but we were fortunateenough to visit the original Shilo mentioned in TANACH. Shilo owes itsmodern-day existence to an archaeological dig. Because the Israeli governmentdid not originally approve of settlement in Shilo, the settlers arrivedunder the guise of archaeologists, and eventually they rebuilt Shilo. Thearchaeologists made a fascinating discovery. A wall was found with potterysherds scattered along only one side of the wall. After much thought thearchaeologists theorized that the wall was a boundary limiting the distancefrom the Mishkan that the worshippers were able to travel when eating theirkorbanos (offerings) because they had to remain within sight of the Mishkan.The newly build synagogue in Shilo was designed to resemble the Mishkan.Located in the center of town overlooking the surrounding valleys and hillsit offers a majestic view accentuated by its north/west light orientation..Below we could see Emek Levona, the Valley of Spices where animals graze.The mayor of Shilo is an ex-Brooklynite name Ira Rappaport who made aliyahthirty years ago. He presides over a community of 150 families stemmingfrom thirty nations including New Zealand and Siberia.

Twenty percent of the residents are English speaking. The oldest dwelleris a 91 year old from Siberia, and the youngest resident was three daysold when we visited Shilo. The residents are employed in different occupationssuch as art, gardening and jobs outside of Shilo. Two of the artists weretrying to sell their prints to us tourists who were visiting the synagogue.One Russian artist's work changed radically from dark, somber hues to light,airy colors after settling in Shilo....

Modern Shilo has lots of plans in the works. Its synagogue is stillunder construction, a lot of details are required so that it will looklike the Mishkan. Also the village of Shilo is hoping to unite with theneighboring town of Eli, perched on the next hill.

The day before the Madrid Conference Rachel Druck, a resident of Shiloand mother of six children, was traveling on a bus on the main road fromShilo when she was killed by some Arabs who ambushed the bus. Three yearsbefore, on the same date, Rachel Weiss was killed by a Molotov Cocktail.In order to remember both Rachel's a small camp called Rachalim was immediatelybuilt nearby.; it was used as a military unit and as housing for Shabbosguests. At the foot of the hill leading up to Shilo is a beautiful vineyardwhich was planted by Rachel Druck and is now taken care of by her husband.Shilo now has its own little cemetery in which it buried its first resident--RachelDruck.

As our tour bus made its way through these ancient hills, past the snarledolive trees, my thoughts reverted to the time of our Patriarchs and theirwanderings in the land of Canaan--Deborah judging the people and prophesizingin these hills, King Saul battling the Philistines, and Samuel annointingKing David... Had the landscape really changed that much in the past 4000years? The sleepy Arab towns with their crumbling and scattered stone housesseemed to blend in with the stone terraced landscape. .On our journey fromJerusalem to Tel Aviv we observed several new Jewish communities dottingthe Samarian hills: Beth El, Shilo, Eli, Har HaBeracha, Ariel, Emanuel,Tekoa, and Elkanah; their names tell the story of our people. The Zionistdream of rebuilding the land is happening in these ancient hills--herethe Chalutzim of today are claiming their heritage.
If you too would like to travel to Shilo, contact Elcya or call theoffice 02-940-1111. 

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