I live in Shiloh, where I came with my family—that is, my wife and five children—in 1981. Decades have passed. Four grandchildren now live nearby at Ofra. Shiloh is now surrounded by 10 additional communities with a population approaching 10,000 Jews. Shiloh is not one of the dozen-plus towns bearing the name Shiloh in America, but a Shiloh renewed in 1978 overlooking the site of where the Tabernacle rested for centuries in the hills of Efraim, 28 miles directly north of Jerusalem.
As the Bible records in Judges 21:19, Shiloh “is to the north of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Levonah.”
I reach out here, at the Jewish New Year, to pledge a certain allegiance. I reach out to those who possess doubts, who feel ashamed, who are fearful, who seek to deny truths so they can live false lives; to those who accuse Israel of immorality in its policies all the while supporting an immoral cause that seeks a goal of political eliminationism and to cancel Jewish national identity.
On the first day of the New Year we read, in a Haftarah from the first book of Samuel, of the pilgrimage to the Tabernacle at Shiloh by Elkanah and his family.
Shiloh is where Jacob and his sons fought a battle with the sons of Shechem as recorded in Genesis 48:21: “With my sword and with my bow.” It is the place associated with Jewish sovereignty in Genesis 49:10: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah … until Shiloh is come to,” and where the Tabernacle was erected, as recounted in Joshua 18:1: “The whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them.”
Shiloh is where Hannah praised G-d in I Samuel 3:2-7: “Neither is there any rock like our G-d…the L-rd is a G-d of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. They that stumbled are girded with strength. … The L-rd kills, and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. … The L-rd … brings low, He also lifts up.”
It is where G-d revealed his presence as noted in I Samuel 3:21: “The L-rd revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh” and where G-d chastised power through the prophet Ahijah retold at I Kings 14:8-10: “thou hast not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments, and who followed Me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in Mine eyes; but hast done evil. … Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam.” (Yes, Jews were the first to speak truth to power.)
It was, then, to Shiloh that Elkanah ascended in annual pilgrimage as we read at I Samuel 1:1-3: “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-tzophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah. … And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto the L-rd of hosts in Shiloh.”
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Shiloh is steeped in Jewish history, in Jewish culture and literature. It is deep in layers of Jewish reality and visions.
Shiloh is the location of the sounding of the exhortation to settle throughout the Land of Israel, where the Jewish people, upon entering the Land, were instructed not to be “slack [but] to go in to possess the land, which the L-rd, the G-d of your fathers, hath given you,” where they were charged to “walk through the land and map it,” and where Joshua “cast lots for them in Shiloh … and divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions” (Joshua 18:3-10).
Hannah’s prayer at Shiloh is a paradigm of moral and spiritual heights, of individual and national redemption, of an assertive feminist who had dared to demand of God and received his assurance:
“My heart exults in the L-rd. … I rejoice in Thy salvation. … Multiply not exceeding proud talk; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the L-rd is a G-d of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed … the barren hath borne seven, she that had many children hath languished. … The L-rd makes poor, and makes rich; He brings low, He also lifts up. He raises up the poor out of the dust. … For the pillars of the earth are the L-rd’s, and He hath set the world upon them. … The wicked shall be put to silence in darkness; for not by strength shall man prevail. … The L-rd will judge the ends of the earth.”
From Shiloh, with its vineyards of today melded the vineyards of yesterday, the tribes of Israel made their fratricidal peace as in Judges 21:21: “If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come ye out of the vineyards and catch you every man his wife,“ where ancient festivals were celebrated, and where prophecy was pronounced. Shiloh from where men joined a group of “fourscore men, having their beards shaven and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with meal-offerings and frankincense in their hand to bring them to the Temple” (Jeremiah 41:5), even though the Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonian conquerors.
My call to you is not, as you may suspect, to insist that you adopt a specific political position. This pledge of allegiance is to the historical truth—truth that is found in recorded history, in the annals of diplomatic deliberations, in the simple legal tradition and in archaeological findings confirmed by subsequent rigorous scientific follow-up.
It is a pledge to uphold, with no relevance to one’s ideology or personal belief, the basic and fundamental self-evident right and obligation of the Jewish people to be able to live and flourish in its historic homeland. The use of terms as “illegal” or “settler-colonialism” is prejudicial and deleterious.
We are not foreign here but indigenous. This land is treated by Jewish ritual law with a special sanctity.
No matter where we may live, our prayers are recited facing Jerusalem. At the end of our Passover feast, we sing “Next Year in Jerusalem,” and at our weddings, we recall the yet-to-be rebuilt Jerusalem. This is the land to which Jews, over all the years of exile, returned from Babylon, Yemen, Iraq, Europe, North Africa, Russia, America and 70 other lands of our dispersion. And that ingathering continues.
Pledge your allegiance to more than 3,000 years of Jewish historical experience, as well as 1,800 years of a yearning for a return of Jews to a status of sovereignty. Do not believe a perverse narrative and reject anti-Zionism. Pledge your allegiance to the future of the Jewish people while living its national identity and national purpose in its homeland, a future that will benefit all humankind, a future of coexistence, of peace and of prosperity, without fear, without threat, without hostility, without hate and without terror.
Pledge your allegiance to yourself, as well as to the Jewish collective. Pledge allegiance to values of morality and truth, of genuineness and authentic legitimacy that have been tested and proven over millennia.
Pledge your allegiance, and enjoy a sweet year of blessings and health!