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Alon Shvut

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Alon Shvut

אַלּוֹן שְׁבוּת
ألون شفوت
Hebrew transcription(s)
 • officialAllon Shevut
PikiWiki Israel 5832 Alon Shvut.jpg
Alon Shvut is located in the Southern West Bank
Alon Shvut
Alon Shvut
Coordinates: 31°39′17″N 35°7′40″E / 31.65472°N 35.12778°E / 31.65472; 35.12778Coordinates: 31°39′17″N 35°7′40″E / 31.65472°N 35.12778°E / 31.65472; 35.12778
Grid position162/118 PAL
DistrictJudea and Samaria Area
CouncilGush Etzion
RegionWest Bank
Name meaningOak 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.[2][3] Established in June 1970 in the heart of the Etzion bloc, Alon Shvut became the prototype for Jewish communities in the region.[4] It is administered by the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and neighbors the communities of Kfar Etzion, Rosh Tzurim, Neve Daniel, Elazar, Bat Ayin, Midgal Oz, and Efrat.[5] In 2019, its population was 3,098.

The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this.[6]


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.[7][8][9] The 700-year-old Kermes Oak (Quercus calliprinos)[10] is sacred to the Arabs with the name Ballutet el Yerzeh (oak of Yerzeh).[11][12][13] 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.[13]

Yigal Allon, who sponsored the establishment of the town, claimed that the name was chosen in order to honour him.[14]


According to ARIJ, Israel confiscated 920 dunams of land from the nearby Palestinian village of Khirbet Beit Zakariyyah in order to construct Alon Shvut.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17][18] Dozens of ancient grape and olive presses, as well as cisterns hewn out of the bedrock, testify to a long history of agriculture.[citation needed]

Yeshivat Har Etzion

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.[19][20] In 1596, Beit Sawir appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds.[21] It had a population of 8 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives or vines or fruit trees, and goats or beehives.[21] The much larger Arab village of Fagur was nearby to the north-east.[22] In 1838 both Faghur and Beit Sawir were reported as "in ruins or deserted,"[23] likewise in the late 19th century.[24]

To the south of Beit Sawir were the remains of a megalithic stone tower of great antiquity but unknown purpose.[25][26][27]

Alon Shvut in spring

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.[28]

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.[29] The first settlers moved in on 25 June 1970, and the official founding ceremony was held on 5 July.[30]

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.[31] It developed as a communal and service center in a predominantly agricultural region.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34][35]

Legal status

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.[36] 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.[37][38]

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.[39] 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".[40]


Gush Etzion Regional Council building

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.[32]


Roman milestone on Way of the Patriarchs on the outskirts of Alon Shvut

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.[41] 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,[42] 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.[43] 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."


A third neighbourhood is planned for the Giv'at HaHish (גִּבְעַת הָחִי"שׁ) area northeast of the town, named after the Haganah's HISH unit's operations there.[citation needed]

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.[45] 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.[46] The teachers are respected authorities on biblical commentary, traditional law and Jewish philosophy.[47] 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.[48]


Gush Etzion Winery near Alon Shvut

The Lone Tree microbrewery, established in 2010, is located in Alon Shvut.[49] 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.[50]

Local culture

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.[51] 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.[52] Use of the Olympic-size swimming pool is gender-segregated.[53]

Alon Shvut and the neighboring community of Neve Daniel are linked by a path called Derech Ha’Avot (Way of the Patriarchs).[54]

See also


  1. ^ "Population in the Localities 2019" (XLS). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  2. ^ Marda Dunsky, [Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,] Columbia University Press, 2013 p.161.
  3. ^ Meron Benvenisti,[Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948,] University of California Press, 2003 p.36.
  4. ^ Katz, Yosef (1998). Between Jerusalem and Hebron: Jewish Settlement in the Pre-State Period. Tel Aviv: Bar Ilan University Press. p. 274. ISBN 965-226-195-5. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Welcome to Elazar". Elazar website. Elazar. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  6. ^ "The Geneva Convention". BBC News. 10 December 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  7. ^ Goshen-Gottstein, Esther R. (2002). Surviving widowhood. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House. pp. 9–10. ISBN 965-229-287-7. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  8. ^ Peter Abelow. "On and Off the Beaten Track in … Gush Etzion". Jewish Action Online. Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  9. ^ Batsheva Pomerantz. "Gush Etzion – Inspiration from the lone oak". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Trips on the Trail of Trees". Israel Ministry of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  11. ^ Claude Reignier Conder & H.H. Kitchener (1881). Edward Henry Palmer (ed.). The Survey of Western Palestine. Palestine Exploration Fund. p. 388.
  12. ^ "The Palestine Exploration Fund Maps". Tile 21: The Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land. Retrieved 17 November 2011.CS1 maint: location (link)
  13. ^ a b העץ הבודד Archived 30 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Kfar Etzion website
  14. ^ Gorenberg, Gershom (2006). The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977. New York: Henry Holt & Co. pp. 210–11. ISBN 0-8050-8241-7. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  15. ^ Beit Sakariya Village Profile, ARIJ, p. 17
  16. ^ Bezalel Bar-Kochva (1989). Judas Maccabaeus: The Jewish Struggle Against the Seleucids. Cambridge University Press. pp. 310–311. ISBN 9780521016834.
  17. ^ Katznelson, Natalya (2006). "Early Roman Glass Vessels from Judea". AIHV Annales of the 17th Congress. Antwerp University Press. 8: 167. ISBN 9789054876182. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  18. ^ Goren-Rosen, Y. (1999). "The glass vessels from the miqveh near Alon Shevut". Atiqot. Israel Antiquities Authority. 38: 85–90. ISSN 0792-8424. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  19. ^ Raphael Greenberg & Adi Keinan (2009). Israeli Archaeological Activity in the West Bank 1967–2007; a Sourcebook (PDF). Ostracon. p. 124.
  20. ^ Peleg, Y. 2005. Excavations at H. Beit Sawir (Giv'at Ha-Hish) at Alon Shevut. JSRS 14: 183-190 (Hebrew; English summary: XVII-XVIII)
  21. ^ a b Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth & Kamal Abdulfattah (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 117.
  22. ^ Hutteroth, loc. cit., p122.
  23. ^ Robinson, E.; Smith, E. (1841). Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea: A Journal of Travels in the year 1838. 3. Boston: Crocker & Brewster. pp. 2nd appendix, 116.
  24. ^ C. R. Conder & H. H. Kitchener (1883). The Survey of Western Palestine. III. London: The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund. pp. 112, 351.
  25. ^ Hanauer, J.E.; Masterman, E.W.G. (1901). "The ruin at Khurbet Beit Sawir". Quarterly Statement - Palestine Exploration Fund. 33 (3): 305–306. doi:10.1179/peq.1901.33.3.305.
  26. ^ John Edward Gray Hill (1901). "The ruin at Khurbet Beit Sawir". Quarterly Statement - Palestine Exploration Fund. 33 (4): 407. doi:10.1179/peq.1901.33.4.407.
  27. ^ E.J.H. Mackay (1920). "Observations on a megalithic building at Bet Sawir (Palestine)". Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society. 1: 95–102.
  28. ^ Esther R. Goshen-Gottstein, Surviving widowhood, Gefen Publishing House Ltd, 2002 p.5
  29. ^ Esther R. Goshen-Gottstein, Surviving widowhood, pp.9–15,47.
  30. ^ Gorenberg, p.401 n.75
  31. ^ Esther R. Goshen-Gottstein, Surviving widowhood,pp.1,12.
  32. ^ a b "Nefesh B'Nefesh Community Guide for Alon Shvut". Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  33. ^ Key towns of Regional Councils, by alphabetical order, 2009 Archived 19 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine Central Bureau of Statistics
  34. ^ Ari Soffer, "Shocking Footage Shows Gush Etzion Stabbing Attack," Arutz Sheva (10 Nov. 2014).
  35. ^ Sherri Mandell, "What they didn't tell you about Dahlia," Times of Israel (11 Nov. 2014).
  36. ^ "BBC NEWS - Middle East - The settlers' struggle".
  37. ^ "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" (PDF). International Court of Justice. 9 July 2004. pp. 44–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  38. ^ "Opinion of the International Court of Justice".
  39. ^ Breaking the Law in the West Bank – One Violation Leads to Another: Israeli Settlement Building on Private Palestinian Property Archived 30 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Peace Now. 2006 October.
  40. ^ Donna Rosenthal, 2005 p.202.
  41. ^ Donna Rosenthal, The Israelis: ordinary people in an extraordinary land,Simon and Schuster, 2005, p. 197.
  42. ^ Communities in Israel Alon Shvut, NBN website
  43. ^ Neri Livneh (7 August 2002). "How 90 Peruvians became the latest Jewish settlers". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  44. ^ Rosenthal, 2005, p. 197.
  45. ^ Marty, Martin E.; R. Scott Appleby (1994). Accounting for fundamentalisms: the dynamic character of movements. University of Chicago Press. p. 290. ISBN 9780226508863.
  46. ^ Donna Rosenthal, 2005 p.196.
  47. ^ Neumann, Jonathan. "The Settlements: Life Between the Lines, Jonathan Neumann". Standpoint Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  48. ^ Haberman, Clyde (19 December 1994). "Alon Shevut Journal; Thank the Lord for Loopholes: Sabbath Is Safe". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  49. ^ Zippor, Amihai. "Success is brewing". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  50. ^ Levinson, Jay. "Visiting small Israeli wineries". Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  51. ^ JONAH MANDEL. "Annual Bible learning conference kicks off in Alon Shvut". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  52. ^ "Biblical rhapsody and regret". Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  53. ^ Rosenthal, Donna (2003). The Israelis: ordinary people in an extraordinary land. Free Press, Simon & Schuster. p. 197. ISBN 0-684-86972-1. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  54. ^ "On and Off the Beaten Track in …Gush Etzion/, Jewish Action Magazine". Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2012.

External links