The story of Ofra Field School discovering new theories about locations of Biblical events.

Surrounded by rugged hills and breathtaking scenery, located in Israel’s Heartland is an institution known as the Ofra Field School. Ariel Filber, director of the Field School, has been part of the school since his youth. He lives in the area with his wife and three children. He grew up in the Binyamin Regional Council, and he realized that although he had hiked the Israel National Trail (a trail which stretches along Israel from north to south), he was still unfamiliar with his own backyard. He grew up in an area rich with Biblical history, and yet he did not feel adequately knowledgeable about the area he called “home.”

Ariel teaching a group on the “Commander Trail” in the Jordan Valley. By Ya’akov Hevroni

Before serving in the IDF, Ariel decided to volunteer at the Ofra Field School in order to give back to his community and learn more about Israel’s Biblical Heartland. He felt such a deep connection to the school that after completing his IDF service, Ariel went on to work for the school full time. He wanted to deepen his own connection to this land, as well as teach others about its rich history and deep roots. After spending time learning and teaching, he came to understand that every town, every hill, and every valley in this region is connected to the Bible. Although there is endless Biblical history in this region, many members of the international community condemn Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.

. Ariel climbing in the “Chinese pit” – a Karstic pit 70 meters deep in Ofra. By Tovi Shani

The Ofra Field School is made up of teachers and volunteers, whose goal is to educate people about all of Judea and Samaria. They uniquely do not teach in the school itself, rather they take the students on trips throughout Judea and Samaria, to see the region firsthand. In addition, they research the stories of the Bible in order to accurately identify where Biblical stories took place, understand Biblical military tactics, farming cycles, and more. They work to preserve the nature and the archaeology of the region.

The school was founded in Ofra with the founding of the settlement in 1975. Originally an army base due to its strategic location, Ofra was the first settlement in Israel, established for the people who worked on the army base. The army base is situated on a Mountain, Mt. Hatzor, the very same Mountain from which God promised the Land of Israel to Abraham in Genesis, “And the Lord said unto Abram: ‘Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” (Genesis 13:14-15). The field school is an integral part of the community, as many members of the community have volunteered in the school.

Yair Bashan (1950-1997) one of the founders and former managers of the Ofra Field School – courtesy of the Ofra arcive

Ariel Filber and the Ofra Field School recognize the importance of exploring the land to deepen your understanding of the Bible. For thousands of years, the Jewish people only studied Judaism in a book. They restudied commentaries on the Bible, which contributed to their understanding of the land, but they never merited to see it with their own eyes. Commentaries attempted to explain how the land behaved, agricultural patterns, battle strategies, and more, but going out to see it with your own eyes is the only way to truly understand these stories. The founding of the State of Israel has allowed us to explore the land, Bible in hand, and understand exactly what took place here.

The Field School is also a major research center for archaeology and Bible study. Although the school has been around since 1975, somehow they continue to make discoveries all the time. They analyze the texts and the geography and the archaeology of the land, and conclude where exactly Biblical stories took place. They are constantly researching and coming up with new theories about locations of Biblical events, deepening our connection and understanding of the land, the Bible, and to God.

Yair Bashan (1950-1997) one of the founders and former managers of the Ofra Field School in front of their biblical animal museum courtesy of the Ofra archive

The Ofra Field School runs trips for all types of people. Schools all over Israel contact them and tell them what the students are studying in the Bible, and request a trip based on their curriculum. For example, they will tell them that they are learning the Book of Joshua, and the Ofra Field School will design a trip for them and send one of their volunteers to lead the trip, bringing the Bible alive for the students. They will take them through Jonathan’s military strategy in the Book of Samuel. Thanks to exploring the region, they can understand why the story of Joshua Chapter 19 is known as “Pilegesh BaGivah” – the Concubine of the Hill, due to the geography of the region.

The Field School also designs trips and provides guides for families and tourists. They will provide specially trained guides based on your group’s preferences, including subject, religion, and language.

The School is doing incredibly important work. Their research has significantly deepend the Jewish Peoples’ rightful claim to the Land of Israel. They bring people to see the land for themselves, and teach the stories of the Bible. Their research  has been invaluable, and they are truly enriching the lives of everyone who participates in their tours. Their research is published throughout the country, and offers fascinating insight into the lives of our forefathers, in this very land, thousands of years ago.

The Heart of Israel believes in the work of the Ofra Field School and has decided to work with them, send them our groups and even translate some of their articles to put their articles  in our newsletter from time to time.

Please continue to follow us on our weekly newsletter and stay connected to our modern day pioneers in the Heart of Israel.

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