A Dismantling Experience

For over twenty-two years I have been living, with my wife and children, in a community that has been scheduled for destruction. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter are in Ofra. The fact is that my community, Shiloh, is located squarely in the center of what should be termed the “disputed” territories of Judea and Samaria, some 28 miles directly north of Jerusalem. Although the term most commonly used for the scheduled destruction is dismantling, it is but a euphemism.

On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority considers my residency an act of terror and encourages acts of violence, including fire-bombings, shootings and explosives, against me and my neighbors. Citizens of Shiloh have been killed and many injured in these attacks. Nevertheless, we have prevailed over Arab terror: Our population steadily increases; construction of homes never halted; schools, religious institutions, industrial parks and more were erected; agriculture flourishes, in the form of grapes, vineyards, cherries, nectarines and chickens.

On the other hand, governments of Israel have been unable to make up their collective minds about our long-range future. From day one, Shiloh has been on the political chopping block in more than a figurative sense.

The first person to demand Shiloh’s dismantling was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Menachem Begin, then-prime minister of Israel, had presented to Carter, in December 1977, the outlines of his autonomy plan. Carter thought that Begin had agreed to a three-month freeze of the construction of Jewish villages and towns. Begin knew he didn’t. At the end of January 1978, the first families arrived under the guise of an archeological excavation venture. The following April, official recognition was issued.

Begin explained at the time that no one would think to expel Jews from Shiloh, Georgia, or Shiloh, Ohio; so why expel Jews from the original Shiloh?

All through the years, we have been visited by American consulate officials and diplomats from over a dozen other countries, all of whom have pressed us about the issue of our removal. We have been photographed from satelites in space. We do not lack for media attention. Cameramen position us on a hill overlooking a nearby Arab village to set up a false shot of contrasts, and journalists repeat the question of our fate endlessly.

We have had other visitors, persons who completely sympathize, identify with and support our presence here in Shiloh. To them, we are revenants, people who have returned to their ancestral home after a long and forced separation. Senator Jesse Helms, former Senator Chick Hecht, Roberta Combs, then head of the Christian Coalition, rabbis and their congregations, lay leaders of Jewry abroad from several continents - all have come to Shiloh and all have expressed their solidarity in words, in money and, in some instances, by joining our community.

Several seasons of academic work at the tel of ancient Shiloh has uncovered a multi-layered history of Israelite presence, in addition to evidence of other peoples who have been here at Shiloh. But it is only we Jews who, as revenants, have come back, and we now face transfer and uprooting by a Jewish authority.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vocabulary, as reflected most recently in his December 18 Herzliya speech, includes “relocation”, “disengagement”, “redeployment”, “friction reduction” and “dismantling”. At a Likud Knesset faction meeting a half year ago, he even spoke of “occupation”. New construction is not to be. In the final analysis, Sharon insists that “Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today.”

Whether it is a border that is to be moved or the Jewish population, the end message remains inexorably the same: Jews don’t belong in these areas. This message is dangerous. It is unfaithful to Zionism, to Israel’s security and to the ethos of Jewish nationalism. It is mendacious history.

In adopting a policy of transfer of Jews, while, at the same time, refusing to contemplate a similar policy towards Arabs, whether in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) or in the sovereign state of Israel, Sharon and supporters are going down a very dangerous path. It is a path that reinforces the fundamentals of Arab propaganda, starting in 1920, which assert that the presence of Jews in “Arab Palestine” is foreign. As Arafat phrased it at Camp David II, the Jewish Temple never existed on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. By extension, in my specific instance, the Tabernacle was not set up in Shiloh, although evidence of animal sacrificial service and other substantiating elements have been found. Transfer cannot be applied to Arabs, it is claimed, because they are the native sons of this land.

Academics, among them, Professor Shlomo Avineri, promote the idea that moving Jews out of Yesha is not transfer, for Yesha is a unique geo-political entity and bringing Jews “back” into Israel proper cannot be transfer. However, the whole argument that Jewish residency in Yesha is considered “illegal” is based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which speaks of “transferring of the occupier’s citizens into the occupied territory.” So, if moving Jews back into Israel is not defined as “transfer”, then logically, the moving of Jews in was not “transfer” either and, hence, cannot be illegal under the Geneva Convention.

In the end, though, all this is moot. Dismantling and relocation would be ripping the soul out of Zionism, surrendering to Arab terror, endangering Israel’s security and the beginning of another stage in the Arab roll-back of Jewish nationalism and the presence of Jews anywhere in Israel.


Tisha B’Av this year marks the 32nd time that Jews, in unimpeded fashion, will be able to congregate near the remnants of the Temple Mount and recite the Book of Lamentations and additional traditional elegies. We do so by grace of the liberation and unification of the ancient portion of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Six Days War, a war fought, in part, to the tune of Naomi Shemer’s song about "a city with a Wall at its heart". That victory put an end to the Jordanian refusal to fulfill its cease-fire accords obligations of the which allowed for Jewish access to the Western Wall, as well as acts of ugly desecrations of synagogues and cemeteries.

The contemporary atmosphere at the Western Wall Plaza, especially in the evening, progressively has become almost carnival-like. Many youngsters from abroad, brought there by their group leaders to imbibe the unique spirit of a people mourning the destruction of a religious center, almost 2,000 years ago, take advantage of the occasion to catch up on their summer adventures. For most of them, Tisha B’Av is far less parochial than the Succot Festival with the lulav and ethrog. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the actual reality of what the Temple, sacrifices and all, was, prior to its burning, is far removed from any religious practices they may keep, the fast day usually sears into their minds, as of all Jews, the underpinnings of the Jewish/Zionist divide: the leap from Exile to Redemption, from Diaspora to the Homeland.Paradoxically, the various Conservative and Reform congregational prayer services there, on Tisha B’Av as well as the Shavuot evening, are even more remarkable. After all, their interpretation of Jewish ritual tends to exclude the "may the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our times" approach, at least on the theological level. But still, even irrationally, no Jew (except those followers of the Leibowitz "Discotel" orientation), can deny the pull of Tisha B’Av at the Wall.

The Wall and what it represents has, from the opposite direction, transcended its religious function and is one of the most powerful of nationalist symbols, uniting Jews from all over,overcoming geographical, cultural and religious barriers. But the Wall, physically and spiritually, is the closest we’ve come over these past three decades and more. The vast majority of Jews cannot even see past the Wall. Many do not even want to presume there is anything behind the Wall. Astonishingly, one of the more outspoken persons on Jewish rights to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount has been Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a Moslem theologian and Imam from Rome, Italy. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Lau and Bakshi-Doron came out rather aggressively last year against those Jews who seek to enter the Temple Mount compound despite the Halachic complexities, on the one hand, and the political ramifications, on the other. The secular party establishment has ignored the issue, aided by a High Court of Justice which, in dozens of appeals, has repeatedly refused to assure basic civil and human rights as set out by the law of the land. For them, only Moslem sensitivity counts and above all, the status quo must be preserved.

But that status quo, as has become evident, solely applies to the Jews. In fact, the status quo doesn’t really exist. The Temple Mount is not a Jewish holy shrine in practice and the Ministry of Religious Affairs has no jurisdiction there. Jewish archeological remains are defaced and covered over. The Jew is but a "visitor" there, with no special standing. The 1994 Peace Treaty with the Hashemite Jordanian Kingdom assigns the monarchy "historic rights", rights they Jews cannot enjoy. And last year, another mosque hall was inaugurated in the southern subterranean area, used by the Mufti’s gangs in the 1930s as a shooting range and 2,000 years ago as the main entrance route for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims, while Jews are denied even the right to utter psalms or other prayers there, even in an individual fashion. And so, on Tisha B’Av, there will again be mourning and even outright weeping at the Western Wall area. Unfortunately, most of the tears will be for all the wrong reasons. The Wall has replaced the Mount

Shiloh's Special Festival: Tu B'Av

Did you know that, besides the three main pilgrimages of Succot, Pesach and Shavu'ot, there is only one other festival day that is described as "Chag HaShem", a Holy Day dedicated to a unique worship of G-d?

Open your Tanach to the Book of Judges, Chapter 21, Verse 19 where it is written: "...Behold, there is an annual festival for the Lord at Shiloh, which is located north of Bet-El, east of the highway which leads from Bet-El to Shchem yet south of Levonah". This was the day that was selected by the tribes to settle their fratricidal dispute that had broken out over the affair of the Man of Binyamin and his Concubine at Giv'ah (see Judges, Chapters 19-21). The Talmud traces the origins of the festival to the joyous remembrance that on the Fifteenth of Av, the dying out of the Bnai Yisrael who were the Generation of the Desert was halted.

For modern-day Shiloh, a community founded in the hills of Efrayim north of Jerusalem, in early 1978, we have fervent hopes that this year's Tu B'Av Festival will also signal an end to the murderous actions of the Arabs against us. As a result of the terror war launched by Arafat, the Shiloh community has lost three of our residents: 5-month old Yehuda Shoham, stoned to death when a rock came threw his parents' car window just north of Shiloh; 17-year old Shmuel Yerushalmi, blown up by an Arab homicide bomber in Jerusalem; and 18-year old Avi Siton, gunned down outside his dorm room at the Yeshiva highschool in Itamar. Indeed, despite these difficult times, life, growth and development continues at Shiloh.

Here at Shiloh, the summer brings an all-family fun day at Tel Shiloh, the archeological mound where the Tabernacle stood for almost four centuries. On July 24, scores of families will have come to participate in creative workshops, a scavenger hunt, tours, theatrical performances, a live band and, for some, a special highlight of a workshop for singles. After all, the Tu B'Av festival has been transformed into an expression of building marriage and families based on the Biblical story already quoted when the men of Benjamin selected for themselves brides who were dancing in the vineyards of Shilo.

On August 8, a unique women's study day happened at the Tel Shiloh on the subject of Chana's Prayer. For it was to Shiloh that Chana, the childless wife of Elkanah, came to pray for a son, as recounted in the first chapter of the First Book of Samuel. The High Priest Eli was a bit abrupt and mistook her soundless prayer as a sign of drunkeness. Granted a son, Chana returned and prayed once again. The Talmud indicates that Chana's Prayer served as a paradigm for all future prayers as it is written in the Gemara Brachot 31A: "How many great Halachot can we learn from the verses of Chana!". Indeed, Chana's prayer was adopted by the Rambam and other Torah greats as the example to be followed when engaged in communication with G-d.

This year, the study day falls on Rosh Chodesh Ellul, and the women participants will hear lectures in Hebrew and English, hear the Binyamin's Women's Regional Choir, tour Tel Shiloh and enjoy a buffet luncheon. Leading up to the High Holy Days, this study day will be a time of learning and introspection as a full expression of women in the practices of Judaism. Both these activities, of course, are open for Israelis and visiting tourists.

Shiloh is a special community, quite appropriate to the activities taking place here.

The main synagogue is scale-modelled to resemble the ancient Mishkan, the Tabernacle that preceded the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Emphasis is placed on encouraging our youth through a new Talmud Torah that was built, a youth center project and youth movement activities. New (and veteran) immigrants are a mainstay including Jews from over two dozen countries including New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Algeria and Holland. In addition, recent converts to Judaism from Marrano families of Majorca, Peru and Mexico also have made their homes in Shiloh. A new industrial park is filling up and several 'outposts', the satellite communities that have taken over the hills, have sprung up around us: Givat Harel (named after Harel Bin-Nun, son of Shiloh's Rav Elchanan Bin-Nun; Achiyah, which recalls another prophet of Shilo; Adei-Ad and Esh-Kodesh).

There is a special atmosphere at Shiloh and no doubt, the unique history of the site and its important place in Judaism contributes to this.

The past two years have impressed upon the residents of Shiloh that in the struggle for Eretz-Yisrael, there is no substitute for dedication and sacrifice.

Avishai Raviv: The Provocateur and His Collaborators...

The Shamgar Commission’s secret section details the negligence of the electronic media as a contributory factor to Raviv’s "success".

The report blames specifically the television for being engaged, in part, in the creation of a virtual reality of a right-wing "incitement campaign".

"Eyal", the report states, referring to Avishai Raviv’s fictitious skeleton crew, "existed for all intents only in Raviv’s pronouncements and via the coverage provided him by the television".

The electronic media failed. The public were cheated of the truth.

The commission directly addressed one unique instance when TV’s Channel One broadcast a "swearing-in ceremony" in September 1995. In the fourth section of chapter four, on page 28, a clear charge of guilt is made when the commission’s members write:
"...all during that time, [Raviv] continued his connections with the media in order to portray Eyal as an existing group and achieved the collaboration of the television when it broadcast a swearing-in ceremony, that was actually a staged event, and anyone who was present should have been aware that it was nothing but a staged affair".

Media consumers, we now know, were, to a large degree, fed misinformation. Raviv sought coverage that would justify himself in his eyes and those of his General Security Services handlers.

The media were interested in the situation because it was good film footage. Each exploited each other. But someone of responsibility in the GSS, and ultimately, someone in the political overview echelon, let developments get out of hand.

Raviv was permitted by his handlers to move fringe actions, in themselves initiated by Raviv, to center stage by titillating reporters and cameramen with material they could not pass up.

Raviv was shown instructing teenagers in the art of urban guerrilla warfare; Planning an armed break-in to the Orient House; and patrolling, in a violent fashion, the alleyways of Hebron.

No one, though, thought to take a deeper look and focus their lenses on Raviv himself.

His initial taking the credit for the killing of an Arab in Halhul early in September 1995 was widely reported. So, too, was the supposed links with the Hamas. Recalled into service in 1993, he was ordered him to paint anti-peace process slogans on walls. Raviv called for Rabin’s death while being paid by the government.

Somehow, the media accepted his actions as "normal" or as understandably representative of the Right.

The media cannot now avoid its own need to undergo a process of accounting. The media surrendered its professional duties to get a story which fitted a certain mold it felt comfortable with. That mold was retold by the Michael Karpin propaganda film produced for the "We Shall Not Forget" society which highlighted the incitement campaign while conveniently ignoring Raviv. And that mold, one can suspect, was fed by personal ideological persuasions of media persons.

Not one investigative reporter or program producer was intrigued enough to go after Raviv. Even after Israel’s Media Watch filed a criminal complaint against the Israel Broadcasting Authority for transmitting that "swearing-in ceremony", we as well as the subject were treated with disdain. What the late Law Faculty Dean of Tel Aviv University and the former President of the Supreme Court considered a staged event, was presumed an aberration.

We, media consumers, are owed an apology. Our right to know was harnessed to an out of focus approach by many media persons. The time has come to clear up matters if they are to fully regain our trust as commentators of the political scene.

Tisha B'Av 2005

"Aug. 14, 2005: Deadline for settlers to voluntarily leave Gaza and the four West Bank enclaves. Only security forces and settlers who have refused to leave remain. Army declares the area a closed military zone."

Thus, the Treasury Ministry announcement following the Israel government's adoption, in principle, of the Sharon Modified Disengagement Pland.

Aug. 14, 2005 is Tishah B'Av 5765.