Calling Shiloh Home: Committed to the Promise

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SHILOH, Israel -- Twenty years ago, Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords. Since then there have been countless rounds of negotiations, stalemates, terror attacks and still no peace.

Israel and the Palestinians are once again back at the negotiating table. At stake for many Israelis is a huge chunk of the Promised Land where Palestinians want to establish a future state free of Jews.

CBN's Scott Ross recently talked with Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria about their commitment to the Bible and the land.

Known to many as the West Bank, Judea and Samaria today is home to some 360,000 Israelis and at least 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs.

David Rubin, former mayor of the Samarian town of Shiloh and author of Peace for Peace: Israel in the New Middle East, spoke with Ross about the biblical significance of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Rubin reminded Scott that Shiloh was the first capital of ancient Israel where the tabernacle stood for 369 years.

Rubin: This is where Joshua stood before the Israelites and he said, 'How long will you wait before coming to take possession of the land that the Lord God of your fathers has given you?' This is the place where the woman, Hannah, came to pray for a son. The son, who was born from her prayers, was Samuel the prophet, who grew up in Shiloh, along with the people of Israel.

Ross: And that is the issue that remains today. This is the land that God gave you.

Rubin: …as a special responsibility to cherish it and to take care of it.

Rubin's commitment to the land came at a personal price when he and his son were ambushed by terrorists while traveling on the road home.

Rubin: The car was hit by a massive hail of bullets, and I was shot in my leg, my son was shot in the head.

Ross: Is your son still alive today?

Rubin: Thank God, my son is alive today. He had a miraculous recovery. The bullet missed his brain stem by one millimetre.

Ross: Why do people choose to live in the middle of the threat of violence, your children, so forth, being exposed to this? Why do people want to be here?

Rubin: We've come home. We're fulfilling prophecy in these times.

Today, 35 years after it was re-established in 1978, 230 Jewish families call Shiloh home.
 
And yet Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said recently that a future Palestinian state in this area must be completely free of Jews.

Rubin: There never was a Palestinian state. It's all an illusion. It's all a political game by the Islamic world to try and make sure that Israel doesn't have the right to exist anymore.

Ross: How do you feel about the land-for-peace negotiations -- that you give up the land [and then] there's going to be peace?

Rubin: It's time for a new plan, which is called "peace for peace."

Ross: Which is….

Rubin: Which is -- we extend our hand in peace, they extend their hand in peace, we shake it, and we have peace. We sign a peace treaty. And all is well. That's a fair deal.

Shiloh is in biblical Samaria, north of Jerusalem. Judea and Samaria and including the Jordan Valley is 79 miles long and between 19 and 34 miles wide.

To the south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is a large block of Jewish communities in Judea called Gush Etzion, another part of what the world calls the West Bank.

Ross also spoke with Ruth Lieberman, a wife, mother and CEO OF Jaffe Strategies, Ltd.  Originally from Ohio, Lieberman is raising her family in a community called Alon Shvut, which means "return to the oak tree."

Standing at the highest point in Gush Etzion, Lieberman called it the "backbone of the hills that control the lowlands in both directions."

From that one point it is possible to see the Mediterranean Sea and the coastal plain, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Ashkelon on down to Gaza.

"You can see the rockets come out of there," Lieberman said.

Looking east is the view to Jordan -- the Moabite Hills. From that same point she indicated it's possible to see the hills of Hebron all the way to Jerusalem with Jordan on the other side. 

"That's it, that's all we got. This is the width. And we're on top," she said.

Jews established several farming communities here before the modern State of Israel was established in 1948. But during Israel's War of Independence, the communities were destroyed and the residents killed or driven away. After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jews returned to Gush Etzion to rebuild.

Ross: Who are your neighbors?

Lieberman: I think having Lebanon in the north, Syria to the northeast, then we come around and have Egypt to the south. We're not in a great area.

There are 24 Muslim states surrounding Israel from Morocco to Iran - 8 million square miles of land - 500 times the size of Israel, where some half a billion people live.

Judea and Samaria stand between Israel's major population centers and the Arab world. Without it, in some places Israel is just 9 miles wide.

Ross: The Arabs, many factions of Palestinians, hate the Jews. But do you hate the Arabs?

Lieberman: I don't think the Arabs who live nearby in the village over there, I don't think they hate me. I think they're taught to hate me. We have our Arab friend whom I know by name, I know his profession, I know the names of his kids. He's behind the cheese counter with this huge cleaver. And he's, you know, what can I get you? And he's our friend. And I'm not afraid. I'm actually encouraged.

Twenty years ago, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords and shook hands on the White House lawn. And still there is no peace.

Ross: Do you see that this could possibly become a future Palestinian state?

Lieberman: If it were to become a Palestinian state, I would imagine it would be because there's some huge breakthrough and the whole world believes that now we have peace in this part of the world. And if that's true, then I can live here. I'm Jewish, I bought the land, and I should be able to keep my home. In every talk that we hear, we're out of the picture. We'll have to pack up and go.

Ross: Do you feel like God is watching over you, watching over this land?

Lieberman: I can't imagine that we would be succeeding at this venture that's called Zionism in our time if we didn't have God behind us 'cause this is a -- it's a bit crazy.

Ross: The scriptures teach us to pray for Jerusalem, pray for Israel. Do you think it makes any difference?

Lieberman: I hope that all of you continue to pray for Jerusalem every day. It strengthens us, it strengthens our psyche. It strengthens our hopes. We know that we're not alone.

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Scott Ross and Julie Stahl

Scott Ross and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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