High Ways of Torah’s goal is to introduce readers, based on explicit references, and textual connections, to places in the Land of Israel with which they might not be familiar, as well as re-acquaint them with better-known towns. Please see this map for the locations of the places mentioned.
1) Sedei Terumot (yellow on the map) – Our first stop in Parashat Terumah nearly has the name of our Torah portion in its name. Located in the Beit She’an Valley, Sedei Terumot is a town founded in 1951 by immigrants from Iraqi Kurdistan, who were members of the HaPoel HaMizrachi movement. It is very close to the Gilbo’a Mountains, where the Book of I Samuel records the deaths of King Saul and his sons, Jonathan, Malkishu’a, and Abinadab. The town’s name is based on II Samuel 1:21, in which David eulogizes Saul and his sons, particularly his fallen friend, Jonathan: “הָרֵי בַגִּלְבֹּעַ אַל טַל וְאַל מָטָר עֲלֵיכֶם וּשְׂדֵי תְרוּמֹת / O hills of Gilbo’a – let there be no dew or rain on you, or bountiful fields (sedei terumot).”
2) Atlit (green on the map) – Our next stop takes us across the country, as we arrive at the Mediterranean coast, south of Haifa, at the town of Atlit (green on the map). Atlit was founded in 1903 by five families who had left the town of Zichron Ya’akov, located in the Carmel Mountains. Ten years later, in 1913, a group of Jerusalem and Jaffa rabbis, led by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, visited some of the new Jewish towns around Palestine, with the hopes of bringing a stronger religious flavor to the pioneers. One way they intended to do this was to encourage the observance of the Torah’s agricultural laws, such as the sabbatical year (shemittah), and tithing produce (terumot and ma’aserot). In this spirit, when they arrived at Atlit, Rav Kook suggested to the founding families that they change the name of Atlit to Terumiyah (hence the connection to the Torah portion), based on Ezekiel 48:12: “וְהָיְתָה לָהֶם תְּרוּמִיָּה מִתְּרוּמַת הָאָרֶץ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים אֶל גְּבוּל הַלְוִיִּם / It shall be a special reserve (terumiyah) for them out of the [total] reserve for the land, most holy, adjoining the territory of the Levites.” Though the residents at first were pleased with using this new name, within a few years they resumed using the original, apparently Turkish, name, meaning “Knights’ Fortress” (admittedly, a more awe-inspiring name than “Special Reserve”).
3) Argaman (purple on the map) – We cross the country again, as we arrive in the Jordan Valley, just off Highway 90, north of the Adam Junction. The town of Argaman (purple on the map) was founded in 1968, named for two IDF soldiers who were killed in the area by terrorists in July of that year. The town’s name was taken from the first letters of the soldiers’ names, 35-year-old Arik Regev and 22-year-old Gad Manleh. Argaman is also mentioned in our Torah portion, when the materials required to construct the Tabernacle are mentioned (25:3-4): “וְזֹאת הַתְּרוּמָה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְחוּ מֵאִתָּם זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּנְחֹשֶׁת. וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּים / And these are the gifts that you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple (argaman), and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats’ hair…”
4) Shani (red on the map) – We head down Highway 90, past Ein Gedi and Masada, turn west past Arad, turn north towards the Judean Mountains, and finally turn west on Highway 316, arriving at Shani (red on the map). Shani is another town which derives its name from the above verse, and is located in the Southern Hebron Hills, north of the Yattir Forest. Founded in 1982, Shani was originally called Livnah (meaning birch), and was renamed Shani after the fallen soldier son of former members, Shani Shacham, killed in 1985. The name Shani means crimson, and appears in Exodus 25:4: “וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּים / blue, purple, and crimson yarns (tola’at shani), fine linen, goats’ hair…”
5) Beit HaShittah (blue on the map) – Finally, we retrace our steps, return east to Highway 90, and travel nearly 170 km north to the Sheluchot Junction (having passed Sedei Terumot), cross the Jezre’el Valley, and arrive at Beit HaShittah (blue on the map). This kibbutz is named for an ancient site of the same name, mentioned in the Book of Judges (7:22), when Gideon defeats the Midianite forces in the Jezre’el Valley: “וַיָּנָס הַמַּחֲנֶה עַד בֵּית הַשִּׁטָּה צְרֵרָתָה עַד שְׂפַת אָבֵל מְחוֹלָה עַל טַבָּת / …and the entire host fled as far as Beth-Shittah and on to Tzereirah – as far as the outskirts of Avel-Mecholah near Tabbat.” The word “shittah” means acacia tree, and it was one of the materials used in constructing the Ark of the Covenant and the Table for the Showbread, found in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:10 & 23): “וְעָשׂוּ אֲרוֹן עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים / They shall make an ark of acacia wood (atzei shittim)” and “וְעָשִׂיתָ שֻׁלְחָן עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים / You shall make a table of acacia wood (atzei shittim).” The idea of Beit HaShittah was created in 1928 in Hadera, by a group of the HaMachanot HaOlim movement from Jerusalem and Haifa, a youth study group with a Zionist and socialist philosophy. The kibbutz was finally populated in 1934-35. Aside from Beit HaShittah, HaMachanot HaOlim established over forty other kibbutzim and towns, including Ma’oz Chaim, Beit HaAravah, Netiv HaLamed-Hei, and Sedot Yam (home of Hannah Szenes).
See you next week, as we continue to travel the land, exploring the High Ways of Torah. Until then, as God told Abraham in Genesis 13, “Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you.”
(Many insights are based on Mapat Shabbat/מפת שבת, by Amos Safrai [Jerusalem: Eliner Library, 2012]).