A Dismantling Experience
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.