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Located in the Arab village Sulam, near Merchavia, the ancient settlement Tel Shunam is mentioned several times in the Bible. The village’s contemporary inhabitants use a part of the site as a cemetery but a variety of historical clay shards can still be found on its slopes since it was built near an abundant spring that drew settlers throughout history.

Ancient Sulam today

Shunam’s women are renown throughout the Bible: Avishag of Shunam, Israel’s most beautiful woman during the reign of King David, was employed as the aging king’s “housekeeper” and, as the Bible specifically informs us, kept him warm in the cold winter nights but maintained her virginity. Some scholars claim the beautiful “Shulamit” whose name is mentioned in The Song Of Songs, should be read as “ Shunamit”. This hypothesis makes sense because King Solomon, traditionally considered the composer of The Song Of Songs, probably saw the pretty Shunamit in his father’s residence and his passion for her might have inspired that wonderful love poem. Yet in order to conceal his desire, he possibly replaced one letter in her name…

The most famous story involving Shunam, however, is the tale of the prophet Elisha and the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation he performed there, for the first time in written history (Kings B chapter 4) : There was a “grand woman” in Shunam who had an old husband and no children. That woman had a small attic in her house, and whenever the prophet was in the neighborhood, he spent the night in that attic as the family’s guest. Having realized the woman had no offspring, the prophet blessed her and within a year she gave birth to a son.

One day the boy went out to visit the harvest reapers in the field and suffered from severe sunstroke. He died shortly afterwards. Upon hearing the dreadful news, Elisha hurried from the Carmel Mountain to Shunam. The Bible tells us that: "And he went up, and he lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child: and the flash of the child waxed warm". Meaning the boy was resurrected.

As we shall later see in the Cooperation story, the villagers often harassed the Cooperation settlers. Eventually the German squadron’s commander Brigadier Voltz threatened them with an aerial bombardment, thus forcing them to hand over a murderous thief (see the story of the German squadron). Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the village leader, Sheikh Naif Zuaby, acted wisely in preventing ruthless Arab Bands from setting foot in Sulam during Independence War, consequently avoiding fights between the Arab and Jewish communities. As a result, the villagers, moshav and kibbutz members enjoy good relationship to this day.

In order to coordinate your visit the Great Courtyard, please call Shlomo Sdeur and inform him of the date and hour you will be coming. Mr. Sdeur’s cell phone number: 052/3638156.