Archeology in Israel is ever expanding at the archeological site of Shiloh. History is revealed about ancient Israel, her culture, her people and her traditions.
Located in the hill country of Samaria, just north of Jerusalem, this ancient community is surrounded by rocky hills, a few trees scattered about and the occasional vineyard. Its modern namesake keeps watch from atop the neighboring hill. The current synagogue, Mishkan Shilo, is designed to look like the ancient one, with it's straight lines and dimensions.
Shiloh dates back over 3500 years. It's most well known as the city where the Ohel Mo-ed, or Tent of Meeting, stood for 350 years prior to when King Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. It's also where Hannah came to pray to God for a son, and the children of Israel came to worship God three times a year.
The day we visited, it was unusually hot for May. We descended from our cool bus into the +90 degree heat, not the best time to visit Israel, unless heat is your thing. Gripping our water bottles, we walked toward the air conditioned gift shop to await our tour guides, Hannoch Young and Mike Clayton.
Shiloh, itself, is set amongst lush Mediterranean style gardens. The bright colors of bougainvillea mingle with the various greens of olive and evergreen making a stark contrast against the dry, mostly mono-color of the hilly terrain. I couldn't resist running my fingers through the slender branches of the lavender and rosemary bushes, releasing their fragrance into the hot, heavy air.
It's seems incongruent, a different world. Just add water and this earth produces the most amazing things, full of beauty, nourishment and healing.
Wandering the paths that wind around archeological diggings thousands of years of old, it's hard to comprehend that these bare stone walls housed the residents of ancient Shiloh. Remarkable original mosaic floors with their intertwining circles and depictions of plants and other symbols stretching out for all to see. Corinthian capitals and bases protected inside the reconstructed building of a Byzantine era church.
Standing in the shade of an evergreen tree, our guides explained why millions of pottery pieces can be found everywhere. When all the 12 tribes of Israel were living in the land of Israel, they were required to come to the Tabernacle three times per year. They would carry their supplies and offerings to the Lord in clay vessels. Once they were brought to the Temple, these vessels were now considered holy, too precious to take back home, so they were broken in pieces and left scattered everywhere on the ground. I hadn't noticed until then that every step I took was upon hundreds of pieces of pottery, large and tiny.
This olive press was used to press oil from the olives grown and harvested in the area. The olive oil was used to light the menorah in the Tabernacle.
At the top of a small hill stands Haroeh Tower, a high-tech theatre which shows a movie depicting life during the time of the first Tabernacle.
Tel Shiloh is one of those archeological sites in which to linger. People lived and thrived, cooked and cleaned, loved and worshipped here.
After hiking around the bare stone remains of their family homes, wine and olive oil presses and marveled at the intricate mosaics, handmade piece by piece, I stopped for a rest in the shade of the trees near the gift shop. Sitting on a bench I closed my eyes and let the breeze blow away the swelter.
Huh? What was that? Sounded like the soft echo of voices... Hey, what just brushed by me?
Huh, silly me, I thought, looking around... just the sound of the wind through the trees... probably the breeze stirring the dust at my feet... Well... I'll just check out the gift shop, see what they have. Maybe pick up some local olive oil. Rising from my shady perch I headed that way but couldn't resist looking back. No one there... I was just sure... must've been the heat.
If you're looking for things to do during your vacation in Israel, then visiting Shiloh, one of many archeological sites is a perfect way to get to know this land.