Yesterday I had an AWESOME day. I went to Shiloh with a group of amazing women
The day had a rather inauspicious beginning — I was being picked up by my a friend and she got stuck in traffic so she wound up picking me up more than an hour later than we had planned. I was not bothered by it. I just knew that it did not matter. I knew I was in for an awesome day, so who cared if the awesomeness would begin now or an hour later. It did not matter…
Upon arrival at Shiloh we began our Awesome Adventure at Shiloh HaKedumim (Ancient Shiloh). After parking, we first met the group at the bottom of Tel Shiloh. We had a tour guide, Franny. She was young, beautiful, religious, adorable, well-informed and best of all, PASSIONATE. She described to us the Biblical story of Shiloh with such passion and verve — she made it come alive for us.
Shiloh holds special prominence in the history of the Jews and of Israel. It was there that the Mishkan stood for 369 years. It was the first capital of the Holy Land. Shiloh was the place where once stood Joshua, Hannah and Shmuel HaNavi. It is the place where the shvatim divided the land using a lottery system.
We then hiked up Tel Shiloh. Yes, I HIKED UP TEL SHILOH. With a frame on my leg. With crutches for added support. With a backback on my back, and my fanny pack slung low around my hips (fanny packs worn in front make GREAT cellphone carriers). I wore my sun hat, and had a bottle of water in the side pocket of my backpack. I wore my hiking boots. And…I was dressed up, I took care to wear really nice clothing. I felt, I am about to go to a very Holy Place. I had to be dressed nicely.
I think my friends were pretty impressed that I was hiking in my condition, and at the same time, all mother hen-ing me, worrying about me, as I insisted on climbing the Tel. I even climbed up on the rocks surrounding the place that is where it is believed that the Mishkan had been. I climbed up those rocks, gingerly seeking a crutchhold here and a foothold there, carefully testing each spot for stability before moving my weight up. And then, I went down, on the other side of those rocks, into the area of the Mishkan and I moved forward, determinedly, with every intention of finding “the perfect place” in which to sit and daven. I found a rock at the edge of a depression in the ground and sat down there. I took out my book of special prayers and my tehillim. I then placed my bag under my leg for support and opened first my book of special prayers to search within for just the right prayer to intone. I chose a Hodaya to Hashem for Miracles. I have lived a life of miracles, that has allowed me to reach that point – to climb up that Tel with a frame on my leg, to clamber over rocks and to reach the area of the Mishkan. It was AWESOME. I sat down and intoned that prayer, in Hebrew, finding myself UNDERSTANDING the prayer without reading the English, finding myself moved to tears, and most of all, finding myself moving my hands and arms in supplication, in tune with the cadence of the words which I was intoning. It was as if the Holiness of the land took over for me and gave me the gift of this type of expression. My normal mode of prayer is usually a simple incantation of the proscribed prayers, albeit heartfelt incantation. But the involvement of my body, following my words, was not usual for me. This was a completely new experience for me – and it felt as natural as my breathing was. I finished my Hodaya, adding a few silent words of my own and then recited Tehillim.
This, then, would be the highlight of the trip for me. Holy prayer, in a Holy place, amongst Holy women… Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh!
When I had completed my prayers and supplications I realized I could not get up without help. So I had to ask for help and two women came over and helped me. Then just as I was turning around, I saw that another one of the women had decided that she too, would try to clamber up over the rocks. She is legally blind, but not totally blind — and she, like me, has some balance issues. At that moment, a group of young students appeared led by a tall willowy man. Two of the female students immediately went over to help Yocheved. We then asked them if they would take pictures of us all together and four of them took all our cameras and took pictures of our entire group. I spoke with this man and was inquiring after them – where they were from, what organization they came with, etc. He told me very readily that they were from Calfornia but seemed hesitant to tell me what their organization was. He finally did say that they were Evangelical Christians. My response was, “welcome to this beautiful and Holy country. You are here right now on very Holy land. Enjoy and appreciate.” But they stayed on that site for a few minutes and then moved on. It is hard for me to fathom, how a faith can be so cavalier of Holy ground. This land is Holy, not only to the Jews who were the first to make it Holy, but later to conquering peoples, Muslims and Christians. If I were a non-Jew and was presented with opportunity to visit a Holy Place, I would want to spend more than a perfunctory few minutes at that place. At the very least I would want to sit in quiet contemplative meditation.
When we had each completed our personal prayers we wended our way back down the Tel. I took the longer path down that was less steep. I was always the slowest in the group, but always I was accompanied by one or two women. I was never alone. It was truly a comfort for me and it meant so much to me – though I am not sure I expressed my appreciation. I can remember when I was much younger, thirty six years ago, touring through Israel with my peers. I was never one to “fit in” easily, and that lack of ability to fit in was never more obvious than when I was younger – because of course, when we are younger, “fitting in” is so much more important. I recall that there may have been times when I may have lagged behind. But never had anyone made sure to stay with me, to accompany me, to provide me with any form of support. I was, by dint of my inability to fit in, and by dint of my inability to keep up, a loner. I was also lonely, although I do not remember complaining about it. I think I was just so used to it that I stopped taking note of it. But as I have gotten older my need, not to fit in, but to feel like a valid and worthy human has become greater. It is perhaps exacerbated by some of the trauma of my life after my husband died. At this stage of my life I am much more self aware and able to recognize better my needs and my feelings.
With the hike of the Tel and tour of the archeological grounds completed, we visited the Shiloh HaKedumim gift shop where we took a breather, and sat and drank cold water. Some of us took the opportunity to use the facilities and others perused the gift shop offerings. I, still very much in recovery from my surgery, first took a percocet and two optalgin. I used the facilities. I then perused the offerings of the gift shop and found a set of beautiful “Sheva Brachot” cards. I bought them to be used at my upcoming Simcha.
Then we drove over into Shiloh, the modern Shiloh. We went to a restaurant called Nichochot. It is a pizza and salad place. I ordered a small personal pizza with mushrooms and olives. I was a bit concerned about the fact that there was only one person working behind the counter and the fact that each order was custom. I thought we would be there forever. Well, I must say “kol hakavod” to the young man who was working behind the counter. He kept all the orders straight, he served them n the order in which the orders were given, and he did it pretty decent time too. I was quite hungry, the hike and being out of doors whetting my appetite, and the personal pizza I ordered was one of the best pizza’s I have had since making aliyah!! While there, I called my niece, Tamar. She lives in Shiloh. I told her where I was and she said, great, it is on her way to Tipat Chalav (Tipat Chalav is the well baby clinic) where she would be soon be going. She would stop in. About 20 minutes later in she walked with her son Eitan, who is about three years old and her infant, Mevaser Shalom, who was born right before I went into the hospital for my surgery. It was my first meeting with little Mevaser Shalom! He is GORGEOUS, absolutely precious. I held him and he was very content in my arms!!! I introduced Tamar to all my friends. Batya, who coordinated the event, and who lives in Shiloh, knew Tamar — they daven at the same shul. It was SO NICE to see Tamar and the babes. It connected me…to Israel, to Shiloh, to my family, and to everyone.
After we were done eating, it was time to go, time to go home.
Sigh — what an awesome day! I was tired, exhausted actually, but happy. I did a lot of walking and the hiking up the Tel put some stress on my leg. I was given the opportunity to say “Thank you Hashem for all your miracles”, while being in a very Holy place. Just not an everyday occurrence…
I mentioned above that I davened at the site of Mishkan offering Hodaya to Hashem for all His miracles. I chose that because I have felt, very strongly, that my life is wrought of many miracles, not the least of which is that I have made aliyah, successfully, I have met a wonderful man to whom I will soon be married, I became part of this awesome group of women, I have had surgery on my leg, thus enabling me to have participated in this outing, and was able to daven on such a Holy site. But I must also offer my thanks to the people in my life: to Batya Medad for having organized this event, to each and every woman in the group – those who were present in Shiloh yesterday and those who were unable to join us – for her part in offering me solace, support, friendship, knowledge, and comfort. Thanks too for the lovely card wishing me a Mazal Tov on my engagement. Thank you to both Jessie Schechter and Risa Tzohar for driving out of their way in order to pick me up and take me home, and to the two other women, Yocheved Golani and Chaya Golda Ovadia for their forbearance during those drives. Thank you to Yocheved Golani who introduced me to this awesome group of women. Thank you also to Shiloh, Ir HaMishkan, for their work in unearthing the site, in keeping it up, and making it accessible to the public. Thank you to Franny, our tour guide who made Shiloh come alive with her passion and her words.
To visit and for more information about Shiloh HaKeduma, Tel Shiloh, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02-994-4019