Friday, June 5, 2009

First Friday in Israel

Today was our last day of digging for the week. I lost some of the steam that I had yesterday. Unfortunately, Rami asked me to leave Elizabeth's group to go join "A West," saying that Elizabeth's site was too crowded. I reluctantly complied. I didn't find my new site nearly as interesting. Elizabeth had been teaching us poems and songs, which honestly, I wouldn't have known existed. Her favorite was Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit...which goes something like: Run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run... Don't give the farmer his fun fun fun! He'll get by without his rabbit pie, so run rabbit run rabbit run run run. She had all of us singing. We didn't find very much today at our site, but we had fun digging nonetheless.

I'm not sure what we're doing tonight. I know we're having a special Sabbat dinner, which is supposed to be a bit more formal... Some people from the other groups are planning to climb Mt. Arbel this evening, but I think we've decided to try next weekend. I know that I can be very afraid of heights, but'll be fun. I still have dirt on my arms from digging. It makes me look like I have a nice tan going. Tomorrow is going to be so busy. We're starting at six in the morning and then we'll be gone all day long, touring ancient sites.

We do have lectures every evening - last night's lecture was an overview of the Crusades in the Middle East. A woman we know as "Kate" is an expert on medieval architecture - she recently finished her doctorate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I thought I was already well versed on the basics of the Crusades, but I hadn't really been familiar with fortifications in Israel. I love her voice. Interstingly, scholars back in the day had come to believe that fortifications in the Middle East were positioned to defend borders, but in actuality they were placed wherever trade was lucrative or the land was fertile - it didn't really have anything to do with defending frontiers or laying out borders between kingdoms.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In Israel

Please ignore the seeming lack of concern for aesthetics on my blog page. It will get better.

Today is Wednesday, and my fourth day in Israel. Today I went swimming in the Galillee for the third time. The top portion of my back is fully sunburned, so much so that one of the girls suggested that I just wear a shirt in the sea instead of having someone else put sunscreen on me while I try to keep from flinching. I wore the shirt that I wore for the dig yesterday, which was filthy with sweat and dirt. The Galillee is beautiful - the color and the way the high, high hills rise up all around it. Mount Arbel is particularly striking, as it rises especially high, then ends in a dramatic cliff. Kinda Grand Canyon-esque. Lauren (Greenspan) has gotten all of us wanting to trek up there this weekend. One of the guys who joined our group in Tel Aviv, Justin, said that when he took the trip several years ago, the hike took over an hour and involved climbing up metal spikes that the Israelis had installed to facilliate climbing on the more vertical part of the mountain. We've had several people tell us that after climbing so far, it is nearly impossible to go back. Once you reach the summit (and taken loads of photos of the sea), you have to take a different trail for the descent. We already have a lot planned for Saturday, so if we wanted to climb it, we would have to start early. We have to walk to the mountain from the kibbutz first, which I imagine is what will take the longest. I shoud explain that Justin went on the trip with Dr. Appold in 2001, and graduated from college two years afterward. He's been on duty in Afghanistan, and is currently attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He's shared many insights into Arabic customs and so forth that he's absorbed from his experience in the military as well as his own travels. It's interesting. He's also one of my roommates.

Sorry if I'm jumping around too much with this entry.

Today was my third day on the dig site at Bethsaida. Monday we were given a tour of Bethsaida, with explanations of the history, as well as all of the various levels of the city. Tuesday was the first day of actual digging. At the last moment, I chose to work with a group of students from West Virginia who I had been talking to. They were happy to have me. The most difficult part of the dig is arguably setting up the tarp at the very beginning, which serves to make shade for working. Israel is hot and dry. I felt like I was drinking tons of water, but strangely I didn't have to make a single trip to the restroom any of the days we have been on the site. Just fyi. So staying away from direct sunlight is very important if you want to avoid dehydration. In fact, the director of Bethsaida who shows us how to do every thing has told us that we are not allowed to work unless our site is under the tarp.
We wake up at 5 every morning and get on the bus by 5:30. We have breakfast at 9 o'clock on site. Breakfast is actually pretty wonerful; today there watermelon, boiled eggs, zucchini, tomatoes, and hazelnut spread to put on our bread, and this wonderful spiced coffee. It's curious that in Israel they sell 3% milk instead of 2% milk. Israelis just need an extra 1% I guess. More to come.