Stumbling over our ruins

Cultures can be the by-product of centuries of historic deeds. The link between past and present is not always so intangible.

Archaeological excavations often fill in the gaps of written records, bringing something otherwise of an arguable and speculative nature to better light.

A case in example is just one archaeological excavation, taking place in Israel. Shiloh has the distinction of being the first location mentioned in the Bible, with an almost Google like reference as to its whereabouts. We read in Judges 21:19 -“ But look, there is the annual festival of the Lord in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”

And indeed, that is exactly where Shiloh can be found today.

Having spent several years on the Trail of the Ark, in particular investigating the archaeological park by Tel Shiloh, I noticed some significant things. First and foremost was an underground military bunker, complete with surrounding barbed wire. It was erected by the Jordanians, prior to the Israeli victory in June of 1967. Why was this of significance? The terrain immediately around this defence complex somewhat defies military logic in terms of denying an invading army access to a major objective, which happens to lie on the route through Shiloh. There really isn’t anywhere of specific value that passes Tel Shiloh. thereby took more than a while before the proverbial penny dropped. The Jordanian Army perceived Tel Shiloh itself as being a prime military objective for an invading Israeli vanguard of attack. Now why would that be the case, and is that something that would be also seen as an important objective by the Israelis?

The answer, based on historic events since the land returned to Israeli ‘military occupation’ (at the time of writing, it has yet to be annexed to Israel) tends to suggest that it wasn’t regarded as important as the Jordanians thought it might be.

While exploring this vast site, with countless finds that relate to its Israeli past, it was hard to understand just how disassociated some modern Israelis can be concerning their heritage. It was as though the advancing army stumbled over the ruins, attaching little significance to its link to a colourful past.

In likewise manner, it is all too easy to embark upon a journey of ancient discovery, without fully appreciating the historical significance of what one is seeking. It is not enough to have an overall idea about the objects intrinsic value. Each individual stone one treads upon is part of a larger dynamic environment. Simply racing ahead based on preconceived ideas is a sure recipe for later failure.

The Trail of the Ark demands getting the full picture, not least, to avoid needless confrontations with forces that wish to divorce a priceless artefact of national and religious value, with the people meant to benefit from it.  

Shiloh is just one example of many others, which underlines just how much stands to be lost just through failing to fully appreciate its worth and place in one’s culture. What if the Israeli Army failed to stumble over its ruins? But a people became reunited with an otherwise lost heritage. How much more so, if one moves forward confidently aware of its importance, before, embarking upon such a venture?

With the above in mind, it should become clearer exactly why those embarking upon the Trail of the Ark be provided with a Pre-Trail assembly area, even if it’s a virtual one based on an Internet experience. Although, don’t lose track that there is a real time element aimed at discovering more about the fate of the Ark of the Covenant. So keep on the trail!

Photo Credit: Hoshvilim