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A trip into the heartland

October 5, 2009

Yesterday, we took advantage of the holidays to visit friends in Elon Moreh. I haven’t been into the Shomron for about 10 years, so this was an excellent opportunity to get a fresh look at the area.

We usually take advantage of family trips to anchor our children’s knowledge of various subjects to the site of actual places and things. As we drove past Shilo, we reminded them of the story of Elkana, Chana, and Shmuel (1 Samuel 1). On top of Mount Kabir, we pointed out Joshua’s altar (Joshua 8:30), Shechem, Mounts Eval and Gerizim, and Tevetz from the story of Avimelech (Judges 9:50). (The names of Biblical sites all over Israel have been preserved in the names of adjacent Arab villages. You can read more about this here.)

What I did not expect was the effect that the trip had on me. When I first came to Israel, I was constantly aware of the Biblical sites around me. It took a while until the amazement and the feeling of privilege at being able to walk on the same hills as David, Shmuel, and Yermiyahu wore off. Since I am neither an archeologist nor a tour guide, after living in the midst of the Biblical heartland for some 15 years, it’s not something I think about on the day-to-day basis.

Yesterday’s one hour drive and the accompanying discussion with the children reawakened this dormant awareness. During the two-thousand-year-long exile , the Jewish people maintained a connection with this land to the point that centuries after the exile, Biblical commentators could draw on their knowledge of Israel’s geography and topography to explain difficult passages in the Torah (Rashi on Genesis 37:14 is just one such example). We didn’t give up on this land while separated from it and we certainly have no plans of giving up on it now that we live, raise children, and plant trees on its soil.

Today we plan to visit Beth El and Jerusalem is on the itinerary for later this week.  I’ am going to think of ideas from keeping familiarity blindness from taking over again.

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