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Beit El
by Helen Mitchell | Jun 19, 2019 | Israel, Judea and Samaria
Beit El (meaning 'House of God') is a community in the heart of Samaria, to the north of Jerusalem.

Its connection to the Jewish people dates back to the days of the Patriarchs when Abraham built an altar to the Lord there after G-d covenanted that his descendants would be a great nation and inherit the Land of Israel (Genesis 12:8).

Later, it was at Beit El (often called Bethel in the Bible) that Jacob had his famous vision of a ladder up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12). Here, the Lord confirmed the covenant He had made with Jacob's grandfather, Abraham.

Biblical and archeological evidence reveals a Jewish presence in Beit El throughout the centuries. The town prospered during the reigns of David and Solomon, and in the days of Elijah a school of prophets existed there. Archeological remains point to a flourishing Jewish town during the period of the Maccabees.

In modern times, Beit El was one of the first communities in Judea and Samaria to regain a Jewish presence after the Six Day War of 1967. A courageous group of Jewish pioneers set out in 1977, just like Abraham nearly 4000 years earlier, and set up camp on the rugged mountain terrain of ancient Beit El, so fulfilling the prophecy given to their ancestors on that very site.

The community has come a long way since those early days with no electricity or running water, cooking food and trying to keep warm using simple gas stoves. Beit El now boasts a population of nearly 7000 people with thriving cultural, educational and religious institutions.

If you visit Beit El today, you may be forgiven for thinking you have stepped back in time to a world more innocent than today. This unspoiled hillside community where children play outside, and signs warn drivers to be careful of them feels like a little oasis.

Yet the reality is that this idyllic picture exists against a backdrop of danger. Beit El is surrounded by six hostile Arab villages that want to erase the Jewish presence from this biblical town. The threat of violence is never far away.

What's more, Beit El's many skilled artisans and producers, making everything from sheep's wool blankets to fine wine are facing economic hardship due to the effects of the BDS movement.

Some may ask whether the covenant G-d made with Abraham thousands of years ago, and confirmed with Jacob, still stands today. But for the Jewish families living on the front line in Beit El, risking their lives to dwell in the land promised to their ancestors, their faith in G-d's covenant is as sure as the rocks they're standing on.