|• official||Allon Shevut|
|Grid position||162/118 PAL|
|District||Judea and Samaria Area|
|Name meaning||Oak of return|
Alon Shvut (Hebrew: אַלּוֹן שְׁבוּת) is an Israeli settlement located southwest of Jerusalem, one kilometer northeast of Kfar Etzion, in the West Bank. Established in June 1970 in the heart of the Etzion bloc, Alon Shvut became the prototype for Jewish communities in the region. It is administered by the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and neighbors the communities of Kfar Etzion, Rosh Tzurim, Neve Daniel, Elazar, and Efrat. In 2018, its population was 3,151.
Alon Shvut, literally, "oak of return", is a reference to the return of the Jews expelled from Gush Etzion by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948 following the Kfar Etzion massacre. The 700-year-old Kermes Oak (Quercus calliprinos) is sacred to the Arabs with the name Ballutet el Yerzeh (oak of Yerzeh). It was a central feature of Gush Etzion and became known as "lone oak". The town was constructed adjacent to the oak, which is considered a symbol of renewal and continuity. The oak is incorporated in the municipal emblem.
Alon Shvut is located on the site of the Battle of Beth Zechariah, fought between the Maccabees and the Seleucid army after the defeat of the Seleucids in Jerusalem. The ancient town of Beit Zakariah, in northern Judea, is identified with the ruins of Khirbet Zechariah, less than a kilometer north of Alon Shvut. It was considered the nearest area to Jerusalem whose topography could be exploited by the Maccabees to block the northward advance of the Seleucid army, after the Maccabee defeat in the Battle of Beth Zur.
Alon Shvut sits on the ancient road to Jerusalem, which is still marked by Roman milestones. Many mikvehs believed to have been used by pilgrims on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem have been found in the surrounding hills. Dozens of ancient grape and olive presses, as well as cisterns hewn out of the bedrock, testify to a long history of agriculture.
The hill at the east end of Alon Shvut is known as Khirbet Beit Sawir (ruins of Beit Sawir) or in recent times Giv'at HaHish. An excavation by Yuval Peleg found a columbarium, a winepress and a ritual bath (mikveh) from the Hellenistic or Roman period. In 1596, Beit Sawir appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 8 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives or vines or fruit trees, and goats or beehives. The much larger Arab village of Fagur was nearby to the north-east. In 1838 both Faghur and Beit Sawir were reported as "in ruins or deserted," likewise in the late 19th century.
The settlement of Alon Shvut was planned by Moshe Moskovic, who had been a member of the Masu'ot Yitzhak settlement in the Etzion Bloc before 1948. The army invited him back to the area in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War. He set forth a plan for the reconstruction of Gush Etzion as a regional centre, envisaging a business centre to service agricultural settlement, a tourist centre and educational institutions with dormitory facilities for students from all over the country. The educational structures would consist of (a) a High Yeshiva in a military framework (Nahal), (b) a Jewish study academy, (c) a seminar for activists, and (d) a school for teaching Har Hebron.
Yigal Allon became its political sponsor, and paved the way for the realization of Moskovic's programme, which was designed to replace the demolished Masu'ot Yitzhak with a new community, Alon Shvut. Funding came directly from the government, and from the Rothschild Foundation. Half of the surviving members of the prewar settlements of Masu'ot Yitzhak and Ein Tsurim, preferred not to return. The first settlers moved in on 25 June 1970, and the official founding ceremony was held on 5 July.
From the outset, it was conceived of as a combined educational centre and a residential quarter for families associated with the then-nascent Yeshivat Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, an institution that by special arrangement with the government combines a five-year programme of religious study with army service. Graduates from these Gush Etzion yeshivot make up a disproportionately high percentage of fighting men in the elite units of Israel Defense Forces. It developed as a communal and service center in a predominantly agricultural region. For many years Alon Shvut housed the only health clinic, grocery, post office and bank in the area. It is currently classed as a Jewish locality, the only settlement in Gush Etzion to have that status.
2014 Alon Shvut stabbing attack: On 10 November 2014, a Palestinian Muslim terrorist ran over three Jews at a bus stop at Alon Shvut. He then left his vehicle and stabbed all three while they were lying on the ground. One of the victims, 25- or 26-year-old occupational therapist Dahlia Lemkus, died of her wounds.
The international community considers Israeli settlements a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition on the transfer of an occupying power's civilian population into occupied territory and are as such illegal under international humanitarian law. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them. Only the U.K. and Pakistan officially recognised the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's annexation of the West Bank with all other members of the UN remaining uncommitted. This view has been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Peace Now reports that private Palestinian property makes up 24.13% of the land that Alon Shvut, along with the nearby Israeli outpost of Givat Hahish, is built on. One resident, professor Yaacov Katz, a former head of the local municipal council, says that the land on which the new Alon Shvut South neighborhood was built had been purchased from Palestinians in the 1920s, and that on principle, they only build on land that can be proven to belong to Jews, adding, "Morally and ethically, that is how it should be done".
Located in the northern Judean Hills at about 950 m above sea level, Alon Shvut is cool and dry in summer. Winters are mild, with rainfall and a few inches of snow about once a year. The old and new neighborhoods are contiguous, and lie on a northwest–southeast axis along the ridge of a hill, with a gradual plain descending to its south and dramatic gullies dropping to its north. The Givat HaHish neighborhood is on an extension of the ridge which abuts a gully to the northeast of the town.
Alon Shvut is located a few hundred meters west of the Gush Etzion Junction, where Route 60, the north–south artery which roughly follows the watershed from Nazareth through Jerusalem to Beersheba meets Route 367, which descends west into the Elah Valley to the coastal plain and Tel Aviv area. Travel time to Jerusalem is approximately 15 minutes.
Not all of Alon Shvut's settlers were born in Israel, or born Jewish. There are residents speaking English, Russian, German, French, Amharic, Spanish, and Portuguese, among other languages. In 2000, a second neighborhood doubled the size of the town to accommodate an increased demand for housing. Among the new residents were those who had been unable to acquire lots in the original neighborhood, as well as many young families that had moved to Israel from abroad ("made aliyah"), especially from the United States. In the summer 2002, a group of 90 Incan Jewish immigrants, former Christians who converted to Judaism and who hail from Trujillo, Peru moved into mobile homes on the site. Donna Rosenthal writes of this community:
Not all settlers were born Jewish; in summer 2002, Peruvian Indians left huts and were welcomed into new trailer homes in this Judean hills settlement. Although these former Christians have taken Hebrew names, they do not yet know the difference between Herzl and Hamas. The "Inca Jews" already have been taught the "holy trinity": the Torah, the People, the Land. And they call the West Bank of the Jordan river by its Biblical names, Judea and Samaria. "We knew we were coming to a place called 'territories' because we know other Peruvians who immigrated earlier and are living in the settlements," said a kippa-wearing convert who carried a Spanish-Hebrew prayer book. "But I have no problem because I don't consider the territories to be occupied. You cannot conquer what has belonged to you since the time of the patriarch Abraham."
Educational and religious institutions
Much of Alon Shvut's growth has been tied to the presence of Yeshivat Har Etzion. In addition to the families of faculty, many of its students have made their homes in the town. The yeshiva, housed in a large, white building overlooking the valley, also attracts many English-speaking students from around the world. Its founders are considered of the more moderate educators in the Hesder Yeshiva program and have gained a reputation of tolerance and modernity for the institute. Alon Shvut rabbinical school encouraged the family of a yeshiva student killed in a Tel Aviv Hamas bus bombing incident to donate his organs, and a Palestinian girl was the recipient of his liver. The teachers are respected authorities on biblical commentary, traditional law and Jewish philosophy. Herzog College for Teachers is located in Alon Shvut. Tsomet Institute is a research institute based in Alon Shvut that seeks ways of reconciling Jewish law with modern technology to enable hospitals, police, fire departments, and the military to carry out their duties on Sabbath.
The Lone Tree microbrewery, established in 2010, is located in Alon Shvut. In 2007, the Gush Etzion winery, a modern facility on the road to Alon Shvut, won a gold medal for its Cabernet Franc in the annual Mediterranean International Wine and Spirit Challenge, also known as Terravino.
The annual Bible-learning seminar at Herzog College is a 5-day event that attracts thousands of participants from all over the country. In 2010, over 100 leading scholars delivered 150 lectures. In 2011, the seminar drew 5,000 participants and offered 200 lectures in such subjects as Biblical archaeology, hermeneutics, linguistics, poetry, history, geography, kabbalah, and Jewish law. Use of the Olympic-size swimming pool is gender-segregated.
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