Shiloh is an ancient city located 40 kilometers north of Jerusalem. For generations, it was Israel’s spiritual center.

The First Holy Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon, roughly three thousand years ago. Until then, G‑d’s “home” — the Mishkan (Tabernacle) — was in Shiloh. Indeed, Jewish spiritual life was centered there — and Jews performed aliyah l’regel (pilgrimage) and brought offerings there — for 369 years, until the death of Eli, the High Priest, when the Ark was stolen by the Philistines and, it seems, Shiloh was destroyed (I Samuel, chapter 4).

Identification of the ruin as ancient Shiloh has been nearly unanimous. Local Arabs preserved the name (“Seilon”), and there are storehouses and signs of destruction that have been dated to the right time period. Furthermore, the location fits descriptions in the Torah almost perfectly.

For much of Jewish history, Shiloh was a symbol of destruction. Indeed, when the prophet Jeremiah warns Jerusalem about its sinfulness (Jeremiah 7:12), he says (in the Name of G‑d) “Go now to My place that is in Shiloh, where I caused My Name to rest at first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.”

That being said, Shiloh itself is hardly depressing. When Jacob calls his sons together to bless them (Genesis 49:10), he says of Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh…” What is this “Shiloh”? The famous commentator Rashi declares that Shiloh refers to “Moshiach,” the Messiah himself, meaning that Shiloh is a symbol of Redemption.

In 1978, modern Shiloh was established beside the ancient site. It now includes four thousand people, a hesder yeshiva where boys study Torah alongside army service, a kollel where married men study, and much more. Interestingly, the town’s main synagogue was designed to replicate the original Mishkan from the Bible. Today, Shiloh has become a symbol of Jews identifying with the past and yearning for the future.

Modern Shilo built its synagogue to resemble the ancient Mishkan (tabernacle).
Modern Shilo built its synagogue to resemble the ancient Mishkan (tabernacle).