It has been approximately 15 years since my last trip out to the Shiloh region of Samaria. I fondly remember that first trip, visiting a beautiful family living on the hilltop community of Shvut Rachel, for Shabbat. However, this time I was with my colleague from Lev Haolam to meet with one of our suppliers, Boaz Netanel. While driving through the winding roads of Samaria, I was taken by the beautiful views, the vast hills and valleys.
Upon entering Eli, the community where Boaz lives, a beautiful panorama brimming with vast rolling hills could be seen ahead of us. Boaz was already waiting outside to greet us. He would later point out the view of the nearby community of Shiloh – the place that the Mishkan (Holy Tabernacle), the precursor to the Temple, first rested in the land of Israel. Pondering the name of his community, I inquired where the name Eli came from. Boaz smiled and enthusiastically answered that his hometown name was inspired by the name of the Biblical priest Eli, who had served and administered in the ancient tabernacle. With the great view and the overwhelming feeling of awe, I stood in this place, the place our forefathers first established Jewish worship in Israel. It was my first time in Eli and I already felt the responsibility and honor of participating in our people’s history… and our people’s future.
Boaz ushered us into his house with a warm smile. After we were properly introduced, Boaz began to tell me about his journey. I learned that he is no stranger to the life and the beautiful views of the Judean and Samarian hilltop communities. As it turns out, he grew up in Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. Shortly after his marriage to his wife, Tamar, they relocated in the North- to Alonei Habashan in the Golan Heights, which is located on Israel’s Eastern border with Syria. Alonei Habashan is the easternmost community in all of Israel.
In Alonei Habashan, Boaz was a part-time farmer and a high school teacher for teenagers with learning disabilities for 6 years. From Alonei Habashan, he and his family moved to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (a farm co-op), in the Jordan Valley. Boaz continued to teach Torah, only this time, to retired army veterans.
“After 7 years in Sde Eliyahu I felt that I had enough [of teaching as a profession],” Boaz said. “I felt that I was doing so much talking, but was lacking in doing physical work. It was then that I began to notice the army veterans heading to the the study hall each morning after they had finished working the fields. Their faces glowed with a certain happiness and I understood how important it was for a person to be engaged in physical work. I then decided that I too would attempt to do the same for myself.”
Boaz relayed that he was not sure where life would take him next, but he was certain that he wanted to make more use of his hands in his next profession. Given that the kibbutz mandated that Boaz contribute to the collective community, and he no longer wanted to teach, Boaz asked to remain on the kibbutz just long enough to find a new home for him and his family. The kibbutz agreed to allow Boaz to stay an additional year as he found his path.
“I remember sitting underneath a tree near my house and just thinking. I never did this, sitting and reflecting about life and where I was headed. It was then and there that I decided that I wanted to do something with my hands, that I was going to take up jewelry making. I said to myself, this isn’t what I am used to, I have never been an independent professional my whole life.”
“In the past, when I worked with metal, it really spoke to me,” Boaz recalled. He then elaborated. He spoke about a trip he went on to visit Alonei Habashan, the community in which he spent his newlywed years. It was there that the local Rabbi said he thought jewelry making would be fitting for Boaz.
After a demonstration of how jewelry is made from a cast, Boaz explained where the concept for the jewelry piece featured in Lev Haolam’s October package originated. “The concepts that I tend to use for jewelry include plant life and history. I really like to use historical concepts,” he explained. “I sent some suggestions related to the Holy Temple to Lev Haolam.”
He continued, “during the Second Temple, during the period of King Herod, there were two huge entrances to the Temple Mount that were created for the pilgrims who came to worship there. There were four large engraved ceilings to these entrances. The top of one of these ceilings was the inspiration for the jewelry in this month’s package.”
Wondering about the times of the Temples in Jerusalem- where Boaz gleaned his inspiration- and then drifting back to the hilltop I had just seen, where the Tabernacle once stood, I asked Boaz why he decided to settle down in Eli. He responded, “We knew that we wanted to live in the hills and we searched for a place that was more or less in-between my parents, who live in Gush Eztion and my wife’s parents, in the Golan [Heights]. We looked for a place in the Binyamin region to live.” (The Binyamin region refers to communities that are within the portion of Israel that were allotted to the tribe of Benjamin in the bible.) And after visiting the community just twice, Boaz decided that Eli was the right place for him and his family.
While getting ready to leave and make our trip back to Jerusalem, Boaz told us that he wanted the following message to be sent to the members and supporters of Lev Haolam: “I think my wife and I put a lot of love into our products; a lot of love and joy. And through the jewelry [that I have created] I hope to be successful in connecting many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to the land of Israel and Jerusalem. And if I can, through the jewelry [that I created], manage to connect their love and their appreciation with the land of Israel, then this would be a small merit for me and it would make me very happy. And may it be that a love for the land of Israel and the Jewish people will be spread.”