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Renewing a tradition of ancient Israel, hundreds of women gathered again to celebrate the Tu B'Av (the 15th of Jewish month of Av) holiday on the biblical site of Shiloh in the region allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. For centuries the young women of Shiloh would go out to the vineyards and orchards and dance on the joyous holiday of Tu B'Av. This month a group of Israeli women returned to the orchards in a multifaceted celebration of dance organized by the Benjamin Regional Council.
LINKS TO THE EARLIEST OF TIMES
This tradition of dancing in the vineyards and orchards began very early in Jewish history. It is recounted in Judges 21:16-23. We are told that, since the Benjamites had no wives, the other tribes sent maidens to Shiloh to dance in the vineyards. While they danced, the Benjamite men hid amid the surrounding vegetation. When each of them saw a young woman they wanted, they caught her, and married her. Hence the Benjamites secured wives and the other tribes were absolved of any responsibility.
Shiloh played an interesting role in ancient Israel. During the period of the Judges the sanctuary of God, designated a temple, was first built in Shiloh (Judges 18:31). Samuel’s parents also went to Shiloh and his mother, Hannah, prayed to the Lord and offered to consecrate the child he would give her. (1 Samuel 1:9-24). And the Ark of the Covenant was stored in the temple at Shiloh prior to it being captured by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 4:3-17).
The Jews as a people have a long history of singing and dancing to the Lord. Miryam, the prophet and sister of Moses and Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines dancing, as Miryam said to them: “Sing to Adonai, for He is exalted! The horse and its rider he threw into the sea!” (Exodus15:20) We know that David danced as the Ark was brought into Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 14-17). Several Psalms also reference singing and dancing before the Lord.
The women at Shiloh participated in various dance workshops including modern dance, belly dancing, flamenco, and finally a central dance in the main square overlooking the site of the ancient Mishkan (Tabernacle) of Shiloh.
BENEFITS FOR THE PARTICIPANTS
One participant in the festival described the experience to Israel National News. “The workshops were amazing,” she said. “I learned how to dance Flamenco style from a true expert. The Noga dance troupe, comprised of religious women, put on a talented and surprisingly modern performance. Afterwards, it was really uplifting to dance together with my good friends. It was so much fun.”
Festival organizer, Tamar Asraf said, “For a moment, hundreds of women were able to stop the race of life, to connect to themselves, to remove the partitions, and to renew the holiday of Tu B'Av where it all began – here in Shiloh.”
Until next time, we wish you Peace and Blessings
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