We had some North American yeshiva guys over for Shabbat meals, and one of them asked that question I used as a title.
Just a little simple geography. Shiloh is north of Jerusalem, and Gush Etzion is south of it.
You'd think that the people running the program would show them where they were going on a map. Actually, I think all these kids spending a year in Israel should get a nice big map and mark off all the places they go to. It would be a great learning tool. They could even compete to see how many different places they've gotten to by the end of the year.
And don't think that it's only the foreign students who haven't a clue. Many native (non-immigrant) Israelis, born and educated here, have no idea. They know that Haifa is north of Tel Aviv and that Eilat is south of the rest of the country, but that's about it. They certainly don't know anything about the locations of Biblical Israel, cities like Shiloh.
People are always asking me where Shiloh is. And when some are confronted with שילה Shiloh, in writing, they pronounce it "Shilah," which shows that they hadn't learned the Bible at all.
Soldiers, also, don't always know where they are. I'll never forget, while waiting for a ride in Beit El, hearing one ask someone who was going to Jerusalem, if it passed Ariel. Besides showing a lack of general geography-knowledge, that's bad preparation by the army. The officers endanger the soldiers by neglecting to make sure they know the map of the country, including Judea and Samaria.
This map doesn't have all of the important places labeled, but I'll explain. Ariel, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are shown. Beit El is next to Ramalla, just north of it. Shiloh is north of the "h" in Ramallah, between Beit El and Ariel, but to the east of them. "The Gush," Gush Etzion is south of Bethlehem. Try to imagine this map transposed with the other map. I hope that you know have a better idea, if you hadn't before.
I'll end this with one of my "pet peeves." When Israelis talk about "hamerkaz," the center of the country, they're referring to the Tel Aviv area. Now, it may be that I'm wrong, but Tel Aviv is on the coast, and the coast is the end, the border, by the sea, right? How can the coast be "the center?" Take a good look at the map. Shiloh is actually in the center. We're minutes, even walkable, to the Alon Road-Jordan Valley, a half hour to Jerusalem and Tzomet Yarkon (Yarkon Junction)-a couple of minutes from Petach Tikvah, and with the new toll Highway #6, you can get to the north or south of it in about an hour and a half or less.
That's why Joshua established Shiloh as religious and spiritual captital after entering the Land. Yes, Shiloh is the Center of Israel.