15,000 Tour Samaria

It has not been formally included in the Heritage Sites List, but the Biblical capital Shiloh attracted thousands on the holiday nonetheless.

Gil Ronen and Maayana Miskin, | updated: 23:08

Tourists near Jerusalem
Tourists near Jerusalem
Israel news photo: Flash 90

More than 15,000 tourists have visited sites in Samaria over the course of the past two days.

The government's Heritage Sites Committee has decided not to include Tel Shiloh in the list of sites that will receive special funding, but the people of Israel do not seem to mind: about 5,000 are estimated to have visited the site over the past two days, as school vacation continues through the Chol HaMoed days of Passover.

Shiloh, located in the binyamin region to the north of Jerusalem, was the capital of Israel in the time of the Judges. According to Jewish traditional history, it housed the Holy Ark and Tabernacle from the year 2,503 (1,257 BCE) to 2,872 (888 BCE).

The Binyamin Local Authority holds an annual 'happening' for families during the days of Chol HaMoed, in which the ancient city is revived, along with a Biblical-style marketplace and an ancient crafts fair. Thousands flowed to the location Wednesday and Thursday, clogging the roads in the area.  

The Local Authority and administrators of Tel Shiloh are not giving up the fight to include the location in the Heritage Sites list. They note that it was the backdrop for many of the Bible's dramatic stories, including Hanna's prayer, Shmuel's prophecy and the death of Eli the Priest.

In Samaria, the Har Kabir and Yaar Reichan nature reserves were completely full. Several attractions were open for children, including petting zoos, performances, and jeep tours.

In the northern part of Samaria, thousands took part in a “Green Festival” in the Shahak industrial part. The festival had magic performances, juggling, acrobats, workshops for sculpting with aluminum and making art with natural materials, and more.

One particular group stood out among the many visitors: a group of 1,300 Chabad chassidim from Israel and around the world toured the region together, and held a chassidic gathering (hitvaadut) attended by several leading rabbis and singer Ariel Zilber.

Samaria council head Gershon Mesika was satisfied with the turnout. “It warms my heart to see thousands of people coming here and erasing the 'green line' with their feet,” he said, in a reference to Israel's pre-1967 eastern border.