Shilo: Home of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)
Before the ark of the covenant was lost to the Philistines and recovered, before the Jewish people were united in the Land of Israel under a single kingship, before the eternal heart and center of the Jewish people met it’s fulfillment in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, Shilo stood for over 400 years as the spiritual heart of the Jewish people. For 369 years the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, stood in Shilo. For 369 years, three times every year, all of Israel would gather around the tiny town of Shilo to offer thanks to God, to celebrate and to offer sacrifices.
The Site Today
Today the town of Shilo is among the most active archeological sites in the world, with digs going for much of the year resulting in a multitude of priceless finds. Today a visitor sees a highly developed archeological and tourist site, exploring the world of the Bible, the pre-Temple world of the book of Judges. The city lies as an open book before you. It’s easy to imagine the routine of daily life in the city, from the four room houses, a style of building characteristic of early Jewish homes in the Land of Israel, to massive storehouses surrounding the city which would provide food and drink to pilgrims on the annual pilgrimage holidays when the small, sleepy town would be flooded and surrounded with visitors.
Outside the main part of the city lies the site of the Mishkan itself, where the barren woman Hana prayed for a son who would be dedicated to service of the Lord all his days. In the merit of her heartfelt prayers Hana’s son Samuel became the prime bearer of Israelite tradition after the destruction of the Mishkan in Shilo. He was the prophet who appointed the first two kings of Israel. It was Samuel who sought out David in his father’s field, according to God’s commands, and anointed him king.
A brand new installation, a two story pillar of glass and metal towering over the site, presents an audio-visual experience unparalleled at any other site in Israel. The story of the site is projected onto a translucent ‘screen’ of glass over the site itself, bringing Shilo alive again to tell it’s story after 3,000 years of silence.
What Else to See in the Area
The surrounding area of Emek Shilo includes a bike trail, with rentals available in Shilo itself. In the valley one can explore beautiful natural springs and, with the help of an experienced guide, the exact pspot where Tu B’av, the holiday where women would wear white and dance in the field hoping to meet their other half, was celebrated in the fields of Shilo. The surrounding towns and sites, all within five or ten minutes driving, include the Achiyah oil press, one of the largest in Israel, a number of high quality, boutique wineries, an extensive petting zoo with activities for kids focusing on commandments concerning animals and the Land of Israel.
And all this is just 40 minutes from Jerusalem or 30 minutes from Rosh Ha’Ayin in the center of the country via major highways.