[Photo Credit: Matan Sagy]
Alon Shvut (Tree of Return) is located approximately thirty kilometers south of Jerusalem, in the area of Judea known as Gush Etzion (Etzion Block). It is one of the oldest communities in Gush Etzion (since Israel’s rebirth in 1948) and like all of the communities in the Gush Etzion, Alon Shvut is adjacent to a road called Derech Avot (Path of the Patriarchs). This road is actually ancient and got its name from the fact it was the road Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob traveled along while they resided in Israel during the biblical era. The name Alon Shvut is a reference to a lone oak tree that is directly adjacent to the entrance to the community. The tree which has stood in the same place for some 700 years was a symbol of hope to the Israelis who were displaced in the aftermath of the Israel War of Independence by Arab forces. Those displaced families, who lived in Gush Etzion but were forced to leave their homes after the Arab armies defeated the Jewish forces in those areas, waited from 1948 to 1970 to return to their homes.
The community of Alon Shvut was founded on June 24, 1970, the day the Har Etzion Yeshiva (advanced Jewish Torah seminary) moved its facilities to the community from Kfar Etzion, where it was temporarily located. The community of Alon Shvut was originally established with the intention that the community would be a rural center to the surrounding villages and communities. Alon Shvut was the first “collaborative community” in Israel. In a “collaborative community,” the community shares more of the communal responsibilities with one another and have the ability to select new members for admission to the community. The community members collaborate on other issues including education, culture, community services, synagogue, security, infrastructure and more.
The population of Alon Shvut was initially composed of families connected to the Har Etzion Yeshiva, from families that had contact with Gush Etzion before its destruction, residents of rural towns and centers, as well as kibbutzniks who joined the purpose of resettling Gush Etzion. Alon Shvut was the first community in which the members of the community invested their own money in self-construction; an investment stemming from their faith in the future of the community.
Alon Shvut is located within the jurisdiction of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. In 2016, it had a population of 3,180. Alon Shvut is located in the portion of Israel that was designated for the tribe of Judah.