The Land of Israel is so amazing. A mere 70 minutes drive north of Jerusalem on Route 60 takes us some 3,200 years back in history, to the site of the holy Tabernacle, or Mishkan, at Shilo. This is the heart of the tribal lands of Benjamin, what's known today as Samaria, or Shomron.
Above: The site of ancient Shilo - encircled is the rectangular area of exactly 50 x 100 cubits where the holy tabernacle stood
Moses, right before he died, handed over the leadership of the Jewish People to Joshua the son of Nun. Joshua - fighter, prophet, and prime understudy of his holy Rebbe - was Hashem's personal choice to lead the Jewish People into the Land of Israel. Up until then, the Mishkan was portable, erected and disassembled during every encampment for 39 of the 40 years that the Jewish People wandered in the Desert of Sinai. One of the first things that Joshua did when he came into the Land of Israel was to designate a place for the Mishkan.
At first, the Mishkan was in Gilgal, at the site where the Jewish People crossed over the Jordan River and entered the land of Israel. The name "Gilgal" means rolling away; here, all of the Jews underwent circumcision, so the "shame of Egypt" - the fact that they hadn't been circumcised yet - was rolled away from them. But, the Mishkan only lasted at Gilgal for 14 years - seven during Joshua's conquest of Israel, and seven during the period when the land was parceled to and settled by the twelve tribes.
Above: these are the apartments of the Cohanim, the Priests, at ancient Shilo
From Gilgal, we learn that the Mishkan moved to Shilo, for "All the Congregation of the Children of Israel gathered in Shilo and they housed the Holy Tabernacle there, then the land was conquered before them" (Joshua 18:1). Rashi teaches us too important points: First, that the Mishkan had a plain stone floor and no roof, simply covered by animal skins like the Mishkan in the desert. Second, once the Mishkan was erected in Shilo, the the Jewish People conquered the Land of Israel with ease.
The story of Hanna and Samuel takes place in Shilo. Hanna, Samuel's mother, was childless. She came to pray in Shilo. She prayed with such fervor and intent that the Gemara uses her as the arch-type of prayer. At any rate, she moved her lips without saying anything audibly, and Eli the High Priest thought she was drunk. She politely chastised him that she was far from drunk - utterly sober - and simply a woman with a broken heart for she had no children. Eli blessed her, and a year later she gave birth to Samuel, the last and greatest of the line of Judges since Joshua. Hanna dedicated her son to the service of Hashem, and from the time he was weaned, she took him to Shilo, where he became Eli's pupil.
After Samuel grew up, the marauding Philistines destroyed Mishkan Shilo, which had stood for 369 years. Samuel became the leader of the Jewish People, and the Mishkan was moved to Nob and later to Givon. 57 years after Shilo was destroyed, King David built the Holy Temple, a permanent dwelling in Jerusalem for the Mishkan and for Hashem's Divine Presence to dwell in our midst. May it be rebuilt soon and in our days, amen!
Above: The settlement of Shilo, today