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August 24, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 24, 2012 PAGE 13A By Felice Friedson "People come to Shiloh The Media Line because it was the first capital of the Jewish nation, it was a Travis Allen was spending spiritual center where the Tab- three weeks in 2009 driving ernacle--housing the ark, the around Israel visiting historic menorah (candelabra), the table, sites when he suddenly noticed and everything needed to serve Shiloh on the map and asked his driver if they could go to the site of the archaeological dig. What Allen, a financial advisor from California who's making his first run for public offi.ce, remembers vividly is what was not there. People. "I went and there was no one there. There was a little station by a gate. I asked if this is Shiloh where the tabernacle used to stand and I was told, 'up by the hill.' I walked up by myself and I had the whole place to myself It was fantastic. There was a view- ing platform and nothing else." Nestled in the Judean Hills about a 40-minute drive from Jerusalem and even closer to the Palestinian city of Nablus lies the ancient Jewish city of Shiloh, the first home of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that for 369 years was the epicenter of reli- gious observance and sacrifices as the Jewish people traveled in the desert. Tzofia Dorot, a young, mod- ern and passionate woman dressed in slacks, a kerchief cov- ering her head--symbolicofthe majority of the community liv- ing in modern Shiloh--guided a group of American and Israeli tourists through the Tel Shiloh archaeological site on a hot sum- mer afternoon. She explained to The Media Line why Shiloh was attracting new visitors. "People are not afraid today; unlike maybe 10 years ago when the situation was different. Today it's pretty quiet. Usually, you're afraid of Something you don't know. So many people didn't cross the Green Line-- Israel's pre-1967 borders with Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon--for years because they were afraid of getting shot, they were afraid of bombs; and today it's a great opportunity to learn about this place, the sites and the people," said Dorot. "Shiloh doesn't appear so dangerous to me," offered Ken Abramowitz, a market analyst from New York who helped put the group together. "Shiloh was the heartland of Israel. About 3,200yearsago thiswas the cen- ter of Israel, and unfortunately people ha e forgotten that. It's good to remind myself, and I invited 10 friends to join us in order to remind them, too." Doter, who now lives in Kida, a community of 50 families within the Shiloh bloc overlook- ing the Jordan Valley, adds that "the peoplewholive in Judeaand Samariaare shown by the media through avery narrow pipe. The extremists are on television, the normal people aren't shown." When archaeological digs resumed in 2010, 30 years had lapsed since the most recent previous work. The visitors led by Dorotsaw a Jewish ritual bath (mikveh) from the SecondTem- ple period--and artifacts found when archaeologists discovered an entire room containing piles of broken dishes from the time of theTabernacle.Dorotexplained that because people typically keep their dishes with them, the abundance of broken pottery indicates that the inhabitants left quickly, presumably under duress, in flight. Farther up the hill and part of the most recent digs, archae- ologists found the big platform believed to be the resting place of the Tabernacle itself. God)--was sitting. This iswhere landwas distributedtothe tribes by lottery; and this is where Tu B'Av the Jewish love holiday--is celebrated every year on the 10th day of the month of Av," according to Dorot. In February, 2012, the gov- ernment of Israel declared Tel Shiloh an archeological heritage site, and pumped-in an initial $1.5 million, a portion of the $12 millionneededoverthe next five years. This help enabled the recent digs that uncovered the actual areawhere the Tabernacle rested. Dorot says Shiloh is like a "mini-Jerusalem" without the mess and noise of the big city. "A site that has so many layers and is such a big part of our history should be exposed," she argued. "Today we have all the layers of the history of Shiloh. Basically, we have the story of the land of Israel." The head ofthe IsraelAntiqui- ties Authority agreed to estab- lishatTel Shilohthe firstvisitors' center inside an archaeological site, set to open this year. The ultra-modern glass and metal structure that is designed to evoke an image "that connects the land to the sky," stands on bedrock in order not to harm the archaeology. Visitors will go from the stones of archaeology up to the tower where, "The tower will help visitors under- stand and see what their eyes cannot. The first floor will be for guiding and the second floor will showcase a movie projected onto the special glass walls that can be controlled so that cinema merges with the reality beyond. Dorot promises that, "You'll see the actors in the area and sometimesyouwon't knowwhat is real and what is not." The Jewish presence in areas Israel acquired in the 1967 war is widely recognized as~ a key obstacle to the Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations. The Palestinians regard the land as their future state, while even many Jewish Israelis are willing to cede the land in return for a genuine peace. Abramowitz faults the Israeli government for "speaking in a mixed message to its people." He disdains that, "one government will say 'Judea and Samaria are ours forever,' while another says, 'we don't really want it, it can be a Palestinian state.' It confuses the population: both the children and the adults," he told The Media Line. Despite the divisive political debate surrounding the future of post-1967 lands; and illustra- tive of Abramowitz's point about inconsistent policies of respec- tive governments, Education Minister Gidon Saar announced in early 2011, a program to bring Israeli schoolchildren to heritage sites in post-1967 ter- ritories--induding the Cave of the PatriarchsinHebronandthe ancient city of Shiloh--so that they would know "the historic roots ofthe State of Israel in the Land of Is.rael." Marc Prowisor, director of se- curity for Judea and Samaria for One Israel Fund--an advocacy group promoting Jewish ties to post-1967 lands--felt Saar's initiative was long overdue. Prowisor charged that,"itwas a crime of all Israeli governments and educational ministries for withholding information from the Israeli public, children and the Jewish people." According to Avital Seleh, director of Tel Shiloh, "Two years ago we said it was time to bring Israelis and tourists to Shiloh. Thirty thousand people have been visiting annually: 50 percent Israeli and 50 percent from around the world. A separate program was initiated that brought in young people to participate in the digging so they will remember that they touched Shiloh." Adding evidence that interest in the area and Willingness to travel there is on the rise, Prowisor said referring to an American lobby tied to Israel that advo- cates ceding post-1967 land to the Palestinians,"Even J-Street recently came." Despite the enthusiasm of those associated with Shilo, travel in the territories has apparently not yet become mainstreamwithin Israel's tour- ism industry. Nimrod Shafran, operations manager foF Da'at Educational Expeditions, told The Media Line that '4 visit to Shiloh was never requested" in the six years he has been work- ingwith one of Israel's foremost tour operators. "The only time I remember adding Shiloh to a program was for a group that included Judea and Samaria in their visit and we took them to Shiloh and a settlement to show them the old and the new." Pini Shani, director of the Israel Tourism Ministry's over- seas department told The Media Line that it's the Evangelical Christian groups who primarily go to visit Shiloh. When asked if anyone has inquired to his desk about Shiloh, his answer was negative. As the group KenAbramowitz brought to Shiloh approached the construction site of the new state-of-the-art visitors' center, participants were surprised to see several Arab workers enjoy- ing a lunch break. Did they have problems with "assisting in excavating Jewish history?" Dorot offered a story by way of illustration. She said that, "One Arab worker asked me as he was digging, 'What is this layer and the next layer?' The deeper we went, he understood that Jewish history is the first layer, then the Christian history, then the Muslim history. I'm proud of all the layers. I think it is great the Muslims wanted to build their mosque here, and the Christians wanted to build their church here. They all came here because the Tabernaclewas first standing here. The worker saw it with his eyes," according to Dorot. But Prowisor's take was morereflective of the intensity of the conflict. "In their (Arab) books, there is no Jewish his- tory in Israel," he argued. "You can't ignore it. You just see it." Charging he has "yet to see anything taught in Arab schools about peace with Is- rael," Prowisor said "I respect "If I am here now, it's my job the Arab culture, but expect to make sure that the archeol- the same in return." ogy here will be exposed; it's llen, a candidate for the my job to make sure we have CaliforniaAssembly, interjected serious research here. I don't that, "Shiloh belongs to the want to lose the artifacts; I whole world, not just the Jew- wanttomakesureIwritedown ish nations. When Christians everything. I think it's never come here they look through going to happen, but even if thebible,"abeliefDorotseemsto something will change and incorporate into her outlook. It nobody will be here, I know alsoformspartofheranswerto we did the research, we have the painful question of whether the artifacts, I know my roots Shiloh will ultimately be ceded are deep into this site, we have to the Palestinians in a future the history here and nobody peace deal: can deny it. 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