The ancient city of Shiloh in Samaria was the location of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) for 369 years. Today it is a modern Jewish community and home to 2,500 people.

The Tanach (Bible) is replete with names of places where the Jewish people journeyed, lived and fought. Trying to locate some of those places today, however, can be quite a challenge. This is because we cannot always be sure of a place’s original location, and in some cases throughout history there has been more than one place with the same name.

This is not the case with Shiloh. Shiloh is one of the many towns in Israel that existed in the Tanach and is located in the same place as its ancient predecessor.

Shiloh is mentioned in the Tanach 34 times. It is located approximately 44 kilometers north of Jerusalem, in the hills of Ephraim in Samaria. It was the center of Jewish religious life from the time of the Book of Joshua until King David established Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the nation.

Until Joshua brought the Jewish people into the Land of Israel after the death of Moses, the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, traveled with the people. After crossing into the Holy Land, a permanent location for the Mishkan was established in Shiloh.

According to the Talmud, the Mishkan, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, remained in Shiloh for 369 years, until the Ark was taken into battle and captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel, Chapter 4).  At some point late in its residency in Shilo, the Mishkan was given a more permanent structure, and it is believed that the stone foundation for the Mishkan can be seen at Tel Shilo – an archaeological dig near the city – still today. Experts believe this to be the location, based on the size and shape as well as the orientation of the foundation stones, and visitors can actually stand on the spot where it is believed that the Mishkan once stood.

In the bible, the story of Hannah, who poured her heart out in prayer for a child, takes place in Shiloh. Since this story lays the foundation for the Jewish approach to prayer, Shilo has become associated with prayer, and many people continue to worship at the tel daily.

During the period when the Mishkan resided in Shiloh, people would travel there for the festivals until the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. According to Judges 21, Shiloh was where the maidens would dance in the vineyards each year on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, when unmarried men would go there in search of a bride.

The modern town of Shiloh was established in 1978 and is currently home to approximately 2,500 people. Each year during the week-long holidays of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and Pesach (Passover), Shiloh holds a festival with activities, crafts, street theater, tours and more.

Shiloh has many of the amenities of a modern Israeli community, with schools, factories, stores, a sports field, a swimming pool, a winery and more. There are several synagogues, including one that was built to be a replica of the well as a hesder Yeshiva, where young men combine army service with advanced Talmudic studies.

Although Shilo is a thriving, modern Jewish community, anyone who visits there cannot help but feel the connection to its ancient roots.

By: Penina Taylor, United with Israel