As Israel's enemies attempt to deny the nation's connection to its homeland, archaeologists keep digging at the facts.
In Shiloh, north of Beit El, excavations are currently being carried out under the auspices of the Archaeological Staff Officer for Judea and Samaria in the IDF Civilian Administration Antiquities Unit and the Binyamin local authority.
Shiloh was where the Holy Sanctuary – precursor to the Holy Temple – stood for about 400 years during the era of the Judges. It is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua, which also states that the Holy Sanctuary was built there. In the Book of Samuel, Shiloh is mentioned as a religious center, where Elkana and his family go to give sacrifices to G-d. During that pilgrimage, Elkana's wife, Hana, asks G-d to give her a son – and eventually gives birth to Samuel the Prophet.
Shiloh is believed by researchers to have fallen into ruin after the Israelites' unsuccessful war with the Philistines, in which the enemy took the Holy Ark captive. The Ark was soon returned to Israel, but was never brought back to Shiloh. Instead, it was taken to Kiryat Yearim until King David had it delivered to Jerusalem.
Archaeological findings indicate that a Jewish presence continued at Shiloh until the year 722 BCE, when the Kingdom of Israel was defeated by Assyria. According to the Book of Judges and the Mishna, unwed Jewish women traditionally went to the vineyards of Shiloh to dance on Tu B'Av.