Judaism: Geulat Tzion, A Small Hilltop in the Shomron
Geulat Tzion. The Redemption of Zion. Not only is it a beautiful phrase and a part of the Jewish prayers, but also a small hilltop in the Shomron, Samaria. The hilltop is home to three families and several single youth. The families live in caravans while the youth live in tents.
This past week I had the privilege of spending Shabbos, the Sabbath, on the hilltop along with eight other young men. We were one short of the ten required in order to form a quorum for the Jewish prayers, but that was hardly the biggest problem. All of us stayed outside in tents without air conditioning during the hot day or heat during the chilly night.
Several of the young men had prepared food and everyone contributed something that they brought from home. Personally, I brought wine and the rolled pastry called rugelach. We had no electricity and our only light, a small candle we lit before Shabbos, quickly went out. For water we had several jugs which had been filled before Shabbos.
To say it was quite a change from the Sabbaths I spent a few weeks ago in Chicago fails to effectively contrast the experiences. Despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of basic amenities, my Shabbos in Geulat Tzion is one I certainly will not forget.
Dipping in a nearby spring, I spiritually cleansed myself before the approaching Shabbos. Praying outside and looking at the many surrounding hills, it was impossible not to feel awe. Looking up at the many stars at night was a clear reminder of God’s promise to Avraham that his descendants would be as plentiful as the stars of the sky. I myself tried to begin counting them, but quickly gave up knowing that such a task was clearly impossible.
Sitting in the tent and eating together from one large pot was a clear reminder of how our biblical ancestors must have celebrated Shabbos.
During the day it was steaming hot and several of us traveled down the hill a little bit to sit under the only tree in the area. This too reminded me of the story of Jonah where God gave Jonah a tree to sit under and he came to love that tree. I too quickly came to love the shade and protection of the tree under which I sat.
If only life on the hills was as simple as that. If only everyone recognized the importance of reconnecting to our biblical roots in the modern era. If only we could all stare at the surrounding hills and appreciate the beauty of the Land of Israel. Unfortunately it is not so.
Rumor has it that by the Tuesday after my visit, the hill will be demolished. All of the families’ possessions will be taken out of the caravans and their homes will be destroyed. The tents will be taken down and the idyllic little hilltop will become filled with the remnants of the destruction.
In the past few months when the government has come to tear down various neighborhoods or hilltops, the two sides have managed to make agreements where the Jews peacefully left their homes, but in Geulat Tzion it will not be so. The families say that they will fight for their homes and are opposed to the idea of willingly abandoning parts of the Land of Israel.
So by Tuesday the government will come in the middle of the night, tear down the caravans, arrest those remaining on the hilltop, and declare the area a ‘closed military zone,’ making it illegal for anyone to come to the area.
The fight for the hilltop of Geulat Tzion is also the fight for the ideal of Geulat Tzion. “The voice of my beloved is coming! Leaping on the mountains- jumping on the hilltops” (Song of Songs 2:8). The voice of the Redemption calls out from these hills. The Zionist spirit, perhaps dead in Tel Aviv, is alive and well here.
Even if they take away this Geulat Tzion Hilltop, a new one will be built. As Shabbos ended, several of us sat together and I noticed many unoccupied hills around us. We said jokingly, “One day those will be Geulat Tzion Two, Three and Four.”