It isn’t often a book reader knows that he or she is touching something beyond our reality while reading a new book. Every few decades? Once in a lifetime?
I recently got that feeling while absorbing David Rubin’s “God, Israel & Shiloh.” The former mayor of Shiloh has produced that rare offering that informs and tantalizes at the same time. In the acknowledgments, in the back of this book, one gets a sense of how different this book is when Rubin thanks a particular Someone first:
“I want to thank the King of the Universe: Thank you for bringing me back to Your Land, to Your people, and to Your Torah, which always provides me with the guidance to navigate the challenges of life,” he writes.
Wow. Not only is Rubin’s book substantive, it is written with the style of one who intimately understands his environment, both physically and spiritually.
Rubin and his son (three years old!) were wounded in a terrorist attack, and David then established the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund. His journey to “returning home” after being born and raised in Brooklyn provides the backdrop to “God, Israel & Shiloh.”
Shiloh, of course, is the ancient Jewish city in the northern part of Israel. It is where Israel’s capital was in the times of the Judges and home for a time to the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. Today, the modern city of Shiloh sits atop the ruins of the ancient community there.
How David Rubin found his way to this far-off land is compelling. Rubin experienced life much the same way his generation as a whole did: he played baseball, attended rock concerts, then dabbled in drugs. Slowly, he got in touch with his spiritual roots and recognized the longing to live in Israel.
Rubin compellingly describes adjusting to life in Israel, from learning the language to his life as a religious Jew (in America for a time he describes himself as an atheist). His description of learning about the ancient roots of Shiloh is riveting.
In addition to presenting life in the biblical heartland, Rubin also gives the reader a very nice and lively overview of Jewish history in the land. One understands that people all over the world today, deprived of robust biblical teaching, have no more idea why the Jews identify with their ancestral land than did a young and uninformed David Rubin in Brooklyn, New York.
In Chapter 6, “Returning to the Heartland,” Rubin begins a modern overview of the Israelis. Because of his smooth writing style and rich description, one can get a bird’s-eye view of that land. And, I must say, if one has already visited Israel, Rubin’s book serves as an almost invaluable companion guide. In particular, reading it before visiting Israel for the first time is recommended, highly.
A photograph on page 94 – the first homes established by Israelis, in 1978 – is deeply moving. When one realizes that the Bible foretold this return, well, David Rubin’s story in some way becomes a story for all of us.
He also includes, out of necessity in order to fully tell the Jewish state’s story, about the Jewish terror victims. In one of these stories is a key to understanding exactly why the Jewish presence in the land is truly eternal.
Rachel Druk, a young mother of seven, was murdered by terrorists on a bus. In the aftermath of her death, the community established an adjacent neighborhood called Shvut Rachel (“Rachel’s Return”). The point is, the efforts of over millennia to destroy the Jewish people always fail, but these truly unique people actually thrive and turn their faces to a glorious future.
Although Rubin describes the terror attack on him and his son, Reuven (“Ruby”), he does so without rancor, simply explaining the almost impossible conditions the Jews live in, surrounded by hostile neighbors. The story of this attack should be told widely, since most Westerners hear a slanted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Toward the conclusion of this remarkable memoir, Rubin discusses the mysterious verse from Genesis 49:10 – “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a scholar from among his descendants, until Shiloh comes, and his shall be an assemblage of nations.”
The passage has confounded readers for generations, and let me just say that Rubin’s treatment of it is worth the price of the book.
“God, Israel & Shiloh” is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long, long time.