Following months of waiting—and after a compromise was reached between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Gush Emunim leaders on Sept. 28, 1977 that six resettlement groups would locate in Samaria in army camps or border-police stations—the few families and unmarried yeshivah students that comprised the Shiloh group set off in January 1978 to re-establish Jewish communal life in the first capital of Israel’s tribal federation some 3,300 years ago.
They had obtained permission from the Minister of Education Zevulon Hammer, whose ministry was responsible for Israel’s Antiquity Department, and that of Deputy Minister of Defense Mordechai Tzippori, to assume the identity of an archaeological excavation team. Tel Shiloh had already been explored by a Danish team in the 1920s and later as the presumed site where Joshua had erected the Tabernacle. It was there that Chana prayed for a son and where that son, Samuel the Seer, entered the prophetic ministry. To Shiloh came Jeroboam’s wife only to be told her son would die, her husband’s dynasty would end and Israel would be exiled to Babylon, “beyond the River.”
We residents of Shiloh conducted a modest “internal” celebration on Tu B’Shevat this year which is the official date of the ascent to Shiloh (even though the caravans were set up on the first of the Hebrew month of Shevat, corresponding to Jan. 9, 1978). This week, we’re having a blow-out party with Yehoram Gaon and other assorted entertainers. We’ve grown these past 40 years.
In 1978, eight families and 20 young men were the start. Shiloh was the sole resettlement community between Bet-El and Kedumim. This year, we number a little more than 400 families and surrounding us are Eli, Shvut Rachel, Ma’aleh Levonah, Givat Harel, Givat HaRoeh, Achiyah, Adei-Ad, Geulat Tziyon, Esh-Kodesh, Yishuv HaDaat and Keidah. This week we also learned of a plan to expand the boundaries of the most recent addition to our ‘neighborhood,’ Amichai. While our opponents see in Amihai’s extended as an attempt to create a new territorial bloc that would include Ariel city, that “bloc” already exists with almost 10,000 Jews along both sides of Highway 60, the main artery between Ramallah and Shechem (Nablus). Their opposition even targets Tel Shiloh.
As the more recent archaeological digs have proven, carried out since 1980 by Israel Finkelstein, Reut Ben-Arye, Hananyah Hizmi and now Scott Stripling, which even our opponents recognize, the biblical narrative resonates in the findings. Moreover, the site was inhabited throughout the various periods of Jewish rule even unto the Bar-Kochba Revolt. Coins, jewelry, pottery, artifacts, weapons and structures all indicate that we today are in the Jewish land past.
In our industrial park are workshops and small businesses. In the fields surrounding Shiloh are vineyards and olive groves, as well as flower hothouses. There are two world-famous wineries: Shiloh and Gva’ot. There are schools, including a now being built girls’ Ulpana high school. Parks. And a swimming pool. You can even run to Shiloh in the Biblical Marathon.
There is life at Shiloh.
While Shlomi Zecharia, an attorney for Yesh Din, thinks, as do other radicals of the “Weaken Zionism Branch,” that we are “ideological criminals,” I am of the opinion that we in Shiloh are the fulfillers of Zionism’s ideology and purpose: resettling Jews in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. No one need move or be transferred. No private property should be expropriated.
The Jews of Judea and Samaria suffered an ethnic cleansing operation under British Mandate rule. Jews who resided in Gaza, Hebron, Shechem, Jenin, Jericho, Bethlehem, Gush Etzion, and Jerusalem’s Old City and neighborhoods and nearby communities like Shimon HaTzaddik, Nachlat Shimon, Atarot and Neveh Yaakov were attacked, raped, pillaged, and in some cases, brutally murdered by Arabs. Their property was destroyed and pillaged. We need not go back to biblical times to justify our presence in these hills and valleys.
Arabs since 1920 rejected all political and diplomatic efforts to arrange peace. Partitions, withdrawals and other territorial offers were refused. The Allon Plan, the Dayan Plan, the Begin Autonomy Plan, Clinton Parameters and many more were disdained. And when signatures were affixed, the terror resurrected, again and again. There are graves in Shiloh’s cemetery as proof: of a young mother shot and killed, of high school pupils shot and murdered in suicide-bomb explosions, soldiers fighting terrorists and even a five-month old infant, struck by a rock that crushed its head. And they still throw firebombs, ram us with cars and even shoot up civilian buses.
Shiloh is 40 years old. Much has been achieved. More remains to be accomplished. We are determined to see our vision—that of Jewish future history—will come to fruition.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.