By Sadie Hilf
“History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man” - Percy Bysshe Shelley
I had the great privilege of living in Israel in Summer of 2021. While there, I had a daily routine– grocery shopping and taking public transport. But I also had experiences outside normal life.
One such experience was when I went on a day trip with Hasbara Fellowships to the archaeological dig at Shiloh. For those unfamiliar with the history of Shiloh, the dig is on the site of the former Jewish holy city, the site of the Israelite tabernacle from the time of the Judges until King Solomon’s temple. Archeologists at Shiloh have found pottery fragments, such as the ones seen above, coins and other artifacts.
As I stood in this ancient place, holding thousands of year old pottery and coins, the weight of history suddenly fell on me. We had been here before. Thousands of years ago, on the same sandy soil on which I am standing now, Jews had been here before–fetching water, selling their wares, praying to HaShem. We had been here before. So, as I walked around with my friends, hearing all about the archaeological findings that had occurred at this site, and hearing the biblical stories that had happened here, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many people were fighting over this exact slice of land.
Of course there is the standard answer of “Israel is the holy center of the world” and all the stuff that comes along with it. The other usual avenue consists of “everyone hates the Jews so they hate Israel” which to be honest, is a lazy excuse. So what is it that has everyone so riled up about this land?
History. The fight over the true history of the land has been fueled the modern fight against Israel. For many people in the anti-Israel camp, this fight over history has consisted of attempting to wipe away any Jewish connection to the land of Israel. This includes re-explaining ancient Jewish artifacts, destroying Jewish monuments, and fighting a war of narrative on social media. For those of us who fall into the pro-Israel camp, this fight over history has often resulted in us attempting to discredit Arab history, and occasionally making discoveries of our own history in the land.
When it comes to history, both Jews and Arabs have a presence in the land. We were here, they were here, some of us were here, a lot of them were here, we’re back and they’re still here. A cycle. Unfortunately the more common cycle in the modern Arab-Jewish world is a cycle of war. Every few months there is some type of escalation in tensions which always boils over into violence. One would think we would know exactly how to prevent it since it happens in a cycle, but even if we know how to stop it, we don’t seem to care to stop it.
So as I walk through Shiloh again, exactly one year later, holding some of the same pieces of ancient pottery in my hands, I could not help but think about the quote at the beginning of this essay by Percy Shelly. I was back in the same place a year later doing all the same activities, and hearing all the same words from the tour guide, a cyclical poem written by time upon my memory.
But our future cannot lie in this cycle of history. To break this tragic cycle, we cannot allow time to be the author any longer. We must grab hold of the pen and begin to write our own future for others to look back upon as history. We must also make sure to try and blend our future with those of our neighbors, occasionally taking the time to share our paper and pen so we can have a bright future together.
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