Friday, July 26, 2019

Lohome Nights, as sung to Arabian Nights

This perhaps best sums up my month on the dig. It is sung to the tune "Arabian Nights" from Aladdin.

On a hill far away
There’s a tell named Keisan
Where the archaeologists play
Where you wonder about every culture and drought
It’s not free, but hey, it’s “fun”

When the sun’s from the east 
And it feels like a beast
And the shade cloth is down for the drone
Grab a pick and a hoe and some buckets to go
And hope to find sherds and “right” bones

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan days
More often than not are hotter than hot
And not in good ways

Tell Keisan days where we all skulk
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Right off of the baulk 

Oh I wake up at four and I crawl out the door
And ride in the bus down the road
To that hill on the plain
Where there’s knowledge to gain
About where ancients made their abode

The music that blares as you dig in the squares
In the haze of your filth and your grime
As you look for a pit 
Or some other old shit
From a segment of Iron Age time

Lohame nights 
Tell Keisan days
More often than not are hotter than hot
And not in good ways

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan blues
The directors demand
These layers of land
Reveal certain truths

And after you cuss and you leave for that bus
With your feet and your body in pain
You go back in herds
And you wash all the sherds
And tomorrow you’ll do it again

Lohame nights
Tell Keisan gains
They’re over for now
And yet, still somehow (thanks to Leann and Jon, and the lectures that went long)
The me-mor-eeee-y remains

Dig Week Four (days 16-20)

Somehow we arrived at the last week of the dig. Life was finally humming along at a nice pace, and it was time to start saying good-bye. But we just got here, right? Or rather we just settled into a routine. 

David, our director, announced late the previous week we would put on a talent show with the express purpose of entertaining him. At this risk of him reading this, I will say my reaction was why now? After weeks of fending for ourselves with solving problems suddenly we were being required to have mandatory fun. <<insert eye roll>>

More on that later.

I washed pottery.
I labeled pottery.
I rotated pottery.
I entered photos of pottery into OCHRE.

This week I added:

I photographed small finds.

Small finds are not pottery. They are loom weights, beads, figurines, and other items that do not fit into their own category. There is probably a slightly different definition, but this will do.

Each had to be photographed on a black or white background with a micro lens, tripod, and measurement meter. It felt complicated until Sandy reminded me the photographs are only for record keeping in case something happens to Gunnar's car as he transports them to Ben Gurian University. If they are deemed museum quality, then they will be photographed by professionals with the proper lighting and all. Just relax and do as many as possible. 

That Tuesday was the only day I felt sick. Best as I can surmise, I ate some yogurt that disagreed with me and spent the rest of the day toggling between my bed and the bathroom. Fortunately they were only 30 steps away from my work site and people were understanding when they saw my green face.

That evening Liz's group gathered under the starts in the amphitheater to reflect upon our month, and to eat some Pillsbury bakery goodies (I brought the box home as proof). 

We discussed our highlights. Mine was getting to know people from different cultures and shattering stereotypes through pottery washing. I also enjoyed seeing the sherds come to life -- from nondescript earthy colors to vivid reds and browns and looking like individual colors with just some water added to them.

Others said how trans-formative the month has been. I wonder if in hindsight I'll be able to say the same, or if I didn't allow Israel to seep into my soul. 

We talked about how more women are entering the field and moving through the ranks, thanks to people like David and Gunnar who welcome working with women and supporting them in their careers. That wasn't always the case. This group had a 2:1 female to male volunteer ratio, and a 5:1 female to male ratio with section supervisors. That is rare.

Our age span ranged from 18 (Maddie) to 71 (Dave). It is the most ethnically, racially, and religiously diverse group she can ever remember. We had at least one Mormon, Buddhist, secular Jew, Presbyterian, Evangelist, and Jehovah's Witness and lived together in harmony. We are a smart group, well-educated, and well-traveled. We were hard-working from day one and never hit the low points most dig groups hit. 
Liz saw no problems with slackers in the group. She only saw the best in us. Too late for Julie and I to point out the slackers we saw staying back at the house. She praised us for getting out of our comfort zones for a few weeks. A sentiment my friend Nancy made when I really, really, really wanted to go home after the first week.

Liz did say the importance of our site has not been properly conveyed. It will become the leading site exploring the history of pottery in Northern Israel. If any of it makes it way to a museum, there is a decent chance it will have my hand-written number on it.

It is the combination of the ancient (what we are digging) and the modern (the people) that makes the dig special for her. This was her favorite group (bet she says that every time, and means it every time).

Later Revital said Julie and I were the best helpers she has ever had because she doesn't like to tell people what to do. We would be shown what had to be done and jumped in to do it without being told in the future. As a result, a lot got done. She was able to go home a few days after us.

Three days to go.

On Wednesday we had five people staying back at the house. Most arrived around 6 am, which is better than earlier in the dig when they were arriving at 10 am. They mostly worked with Marco sorting soil -- or playing "needle in the haystack." 

A group photo was taken (thanks, Alex).
Wednesday was the last dig day. The last day 30+ buckets of pottery would arrive. Time to start thinking about saying good-bye to Fahrer and Ahlham. Fahrer brought us each presents. Mine were blue pajamas that say Soul Sisters on them. Julie was given a fancy dress. Marco and Gunnar were given orange Italian shirts. We felt bad they spent so much on us, as well as humbled and honored to have gotten to know them. We are all fighting back tears at this point.

I spent most of Wednesday updating OCHRE to make up for losing so much time the day before with tummy issues. 

We had our final lecture. Leann and Jon gave a fascinating presentation about collective memory conversations. "We are storytelling, how we tell the stories is important." Controlling memory is power -- a lesson I never tire of hearing.

Together they are working on four big projects:
1) Updating Jon's work at Hollins University in Virginia
2) Historic sites on Wagon Road
3) Slavery
4) Israel and the West Bank including the Kibbutz, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv (sounds like multiple projects)

In March 2018 they conducted a week-long field school at Hollins while classes were still taking place. This is how Haley and Pria learned about the dig and decided to join this summer. It was all-women led. Even though it was in Virginia, it snowed on the first day. They had a blast and want to go back to learn more about the enslaved population at Hollins. It is part of the slavery, race, and memory project at Wake Forest University. Their website went live a week earlier.

Their lecture captured so much more and probably deserves its own post, but as I am nearing the end of blogging, and still want to add pictures to the past 30 posts, this will have to do. 

Dig Day 19 was fun for Julie, Tati, and I because we were brought back to the dig site. For me it was the first time since I left nearly 3 weeks earlier. It was a chance to study their progress, but mostly a chance for closure for myself. I realized by working at the house, I had the better end of the deal. More about that in my post on takeaways. I think this does merit its own post.

We stayed for only 90 minutes, then returned with David as he picked up second breakfast. We were covered in dirt as we ate breakfast in the Guest House. 

After a shower, I returned to the routine of OCHRE and labeling pottery. 

At noon we had a party for Ahlham and Fahrer. All tried not to cry. We were not
sure until the rest of the gang returned at 1:30 pm with their finds (one square was still open) if we would have enough pottery for the pottery ladies to return on Friday or not. Turned out Thursday was their last day. No time for tears as their father/husband was there to take them home. I'll miss their warmth and generosity of spirit.

I headed into Akko for the last time. I wanted to buy a menorah, but was told I really wanted a Hanukkiah. The former is used in temples, the latter as part of the Hanukkah celebration. Hanukkiah it was. As I was trying to use up shekels, I didn't even haggle the price. I laid out what I wanted to spend (leaving my credit card and the rest of my shekels in the hotel) and bought the one that spoke to me the most.

Sofia and took pictures of small finds during pottery washing. She took a class in photography and is very good. In many ways I helped her, but I also got things set up and taken apart and kept the ball moving. We were a good team. Too bad it took almost until the end to work out a system for photography. I felt bad they had more to photograph after we went home.

I found a stone in the Kibbutz to put on my friend Carin's grave. The intention was to place a stone from the dig site, but from the Kibbutz made more sense. I found one near the labyrinth I walked most nights near what looked like a cemetery to me. Once school starts I'll find time to visit her grave.

Friday was a whirlwind of activity as we tried to wrap up as much as possible, while still having to pack and say our good-byes. I returned to the Baha'i Garden for a last visit. It was my
Israeli spiritual place. 

I took a few sherds home for show and tell. Hoping to tell the Bridge kids about my experiences.

We were there for so long, yet there were so many people I did not get to know. Many whose names I did not learn. It was an odd experience of having unlimited time that was somehow too short in the end. I know that probably does not make any sense.

An hour before our last dinner Alex asked me for some pictures from at the house. He generously included many of them in his slide show, even though most people had no idea who some of our helpers were. It meant a lot to me.

At the talent show Julie and I were back up singers for Haley, who sang a spoof on Arabian Nights from Aladdin that was spot on.

Had I thought of it sooner, I would have written a spoof of 9 to 5 for Julie and I to perform. Working 4 to 2, what a way to not make a living... I didn't think I could do the tone right given my hard feelings. The sections picked on the leaders, and (for the most part) not on the volunteers. Tiny Thomas was called out for missing six dig days, and at least four pottery washing sessions. Tall Thomas was called out for missing one session, which was a bit unfair but was meant to soften the blow for Tiny Thomas.

One site highlighted all the ailments (including a snake bite and smashed hand) their square endured.

The square excavating the French chapel led by a German section leader did a great section standing on a chair (their section went down the furthest) talking about "You know you are from the German French Square when...." It was perfect.

It was time for more good-byes. Soon there would be hellos.

The following morning we had a civilized breakfast in the main cafeteria and boarded the bus 10 minutes early for the airport. Tiny Thomas, in particular, needed every minute. Thankfully we all ended up on our 12-hour flight to Newark.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dig Day 19 -- Dig Tour

I'm separating out our last Thursday because Liz gave us a fantastic tour of the site. When working on the dig we each focused on our square, ignoring what was happening in the other five. One comment we made to Liz when we gathered that Tuesday night was how beneficial and meaningful it would have been to us if we knew more about the greater picture. 

A site tour was given three times. Once at the very beginning. Then in the middle. Then at the end. 

My notes (written back in our room) say:
1) Things have changed. Emily moved one square to the right, and our original square was taken over by power diggers to get to the 9th century BC (successful) and to find the bottom of the pit (jury still out on that one). They were still power digging that day. Other changes include walls were removed so they could see what was beneath the walls, and there were now stairs.

2) Liz was pleased we met their lofty goals. That rarely happens. The 8th century BCE is still a mystery.

3) I was really glad not to be there daily. My team are workhorses and there was no chance I would ever keep up, they were even better at sweeping than I was. I could not keep up, nor could I do it as well. As a result, I felt miserable. At the house I did lots of things and could do them well. Made me think of the Bridge Kids.

4) They found an olive press in Olivia's square. Even to my untrained eye it is pretty awesome. It brought up a lot of questions: one was on top of the other, was it a replacement? did they somehow work together? how did it work? Google Mejido oil press to see one in action. I obviously have the named spelled wrong.

5) There is an overall sense of accomplishment.

6) The church kept rocks that were walls (maybe 10m x10m) and dug in the
center (3m x 3m). They dug down about 70 cms (the height of a tall person). This is as deep as the Israeli government will allow them to dig for safety purposes. Will have to figure out how to proceed in two years when they return.

7) Several pits brought up a lot of 7th century pottery.

8) Some walls that oddly ended up being placed where they decided to put baulks. They have partial walls that don't seem to be connected. Lots of questions. Thought of Josh and the Trent House project. Before I left they were uncovering something they had dug years earlier only to discover large stones disappeared where the kitchen used to be. He saw those stone. He photographed and documented those stones. How odd?
9) Plowing through the pit the Israelis they hired only worked Thursday and Monday. They were not as effective as hoped. They switched to using a few powerhouse people from Team Tel.

10) In the church they found about 10-12 large complete vessels. I labeled some of them.

I was never so happy to get back in a car in my life.

Some more pictures from the dig site (day 19):

The "Princeton" Group

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Safed / Tsvet

In Israel I quickly learned there is no right or wrong way to spell a city using letters I understand. In a mile-long stretch of road in front of the Kibbutz where I stayed the same town was spelled Naharia, Naharrya, and Naharyia. Okay I am making some of these up since I don't really remember how the beach town that looks a lot like Miami Beach on the Mediterranean Sea really is spelled. I do remember seeing a few different variations on the same theme.

Safed / Tsvet was even more confusing to me. The concierge at Abraham Hostels told me to not worry about it. The different spellings stem from whether the speaker is Arab or Jewish and that no one takes offense how a foreigner pronounces it.

I asked him how to get there. He looked at the mooveit app and came up with a simpler plan than I was finding through Google directions -- walk to a giant mall and take a direct bus for about 90 minutes. 

I'm sorry to say I was disappointed by Safed. 

Perhaps my expectations were too high. Perhaps I should have visited on a different day of the week. My big disappointment was on the Sunday when I went, the synagogues were closed. There were a few birth right groups, but not a lot of other people.

Mostly I wandered around the town. 

I had a vegetarian lunch at the Lonely Planet recommended Elements. In hindsight I should have had a bigger lunch since I was returning to Kibbutz food, but at the time I was still full from the enormous breakfast I had at my hotel in Nazareth. 


Safed is the highest point in Israel. A factoid I gleaned from listening to a birth right tour. It is also prone to earthquakes. On the side of the mountain behind the Old City is a windy path going through a cemetery. The graves are raised. The blue ones are of people well-known in the kabbalah faith. Back in Nazareth the guide said blue represented Judaism, so that made sense.

Perhaps the hardest part of navigating Safed was the lack of English. Many signs were in Hebrew only. It also did not help the tourist booth was closed. 


I am glad I went. I did enjoy wandering around the street with shops and seeing the various Judaica for sale from Mezuzahs to yarmulkes to menorahs, plus jewelry and art.


I did buy myself a pair of delicate silver earrings with a blue Roman stone which will always remind me of my time in Israel. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Nazareth - Candlelight Procession

One of the benefits to staying overnight in Nazareth was being able to participate in their weekly candlelight procession. I was 20 minutes early, which meant I was near the front of the activity. The processional is filmed, no idea who watches it, or on what channel it appears (online, maybe?). By arriving early I was near the front of the group. I was also there in time for the lesson in how to sing the hymns. The leaders asked where we were from and what languages we represented. Later I noticed several people were chosen to narrate in a variety of languages. English was one of them.

I quickly realized I forgot to wear my "modest attire." Fortunately I was allowed to participate in my shorts and a tank top.

We were handed a candle as we entered the square near the second floor exit from the Basilica of the Annunciation. We huddled together as more people joined our group. The mood was peaceful. At 8:30 pm the official service began. Hymns were sung. The narrations talking about different stages of Jesus's life as it pertained to Nazareth were read. The Hail Mary was recited in Latin (I'm guessing it was Latin, seemed closer to English than Arabic). 

Within 20 minutes we started to process into the street, to the left, into the ground floor entrance to the courtyard. 

Through the covered walkway with the mosaics, around to the entrance of the church (still not kicked out for having bare knees).

And into the church where we stood in a semi-circle up high while those leading the worship service went down to the grotto where Mary used to live.
It was very moving. I know my words are not doing this justice. We sang simple songs, and though we came from a wide variety of backgrounds, we walked as one in Christ. Our candles illuminated the path (sometimes too much as the paper around the candles caught fire, sometimes too little as the candles were blown out by the wind), but still as one. Hardly a sound was heard. Our small group grew as we walked. While there were less than 50 people when I started, there were hundreds filling the sanctuary. All glorifying God.

It was the most spiritual experience I had in Israel. 

I teared up hearing the different languages and seeing God's presence in the different parts of the world.

It was beautiful.