What the Crap Are You Doing in Israel?

29 May

Let me take a break, explain why I am here, and then we can get back to our regularly (ish) scheduled programming.

In 1969 a man named Jim Strange (he might even have been a PhD by then) went on a dig to Meiron…or perhaps Gush Halav.  Not sure.  Anyway, he went and he was hooked.  Many digs later (Khirbet Shema, Gush Halav, other Hebrew names I can’t pronouce or remember) he settled at Sepphoris (or Tzippori or Zippori) near Nazareth in the Galilee.  This was 1983.  I had been once, as an infant, in 1978…or maybe 1979.  Again, I have no idea.  But by 1985 dad had decided he wanted to always be able to bring his family.  At that point my older two siblings were old enough to be living on their own, so it was me (age 7), my middle sister (age 12) and mom and dad.  Every summer until about 2000.  I did miss a few summers, but we went pretty much every time.

The result is that now my sister is an Islamic Archaeologist and she is married to a Syrio-Palestinian Archaeologist (he does the early stuff…bronze and iron age) and my brother is also a New Testament Archaeologist like my dad.  I am not.  This is also nothing like Indiana Jones.  He gets to drink, runs from Nazis (there aren’t many Nazis in Israel), gets laid.  We have a…well…a different life.

I have been getting a little chastised for leaving Jonathan and I think that people think I am here just partying or having a blast.  Please, OH PLEASE, let me enlighten you.

We are having permit issues with the Israel Antiquities Authority, but that’s beside the point.  This is how it goes:
Mon-Fri: wake up at 3:50am, or wake up to the sound of a door knock at 4am (I wake up earlier)
4:15-4:30am is breakfast
4:30am – load vans and drive to site
5am arrive at site, get tools
5:30am begin to dig
8:30am second breakfast…like hobbits…or like archaeologists
12:30pm pack up and drive home
1pm lunch
1:30pm pottery wash or nap (depending on if you are assigned to wash or not)
4:30pm pottery reading (at this point, most everyone has been napping)
6pm dinner
7pm lecture
8pm do paperwork and bookwork
9pmish PASS OUT

Rinse and repeat.  The kind of archaeology we do is a variant of Classical Archaeology, although what we find is mostly presented at ASOR.  We don’t dig tiny 1×1 yard squares with brushes and trowels and practically wet our pants when we find ONE nail or ONE pot sherd like American archaeologists do (no offense to them at all…it is just a little tedious).  We move DIRT.  We dig 4×4 meters squares that are about 2 meters deep.  We remove at least 32 tons of earth per square per season, with each person probably moving 8 tons BY THEMSELVES.  We use picks and hoes and wheelbarrows.  We get thousands of pot sherds and throw most of them out, we get hundreds of nail and lamp fragments and we get dozens (sometimes hundreds) of coins.  We even have gotten gold jewelry and ancient toys and dice and game pieces.  This is BIG archaeology.

I am not complaining.  This has been my summer schedule ever since I can remember…but when you feel all sad for Jonathan and think I am a bitch for running off and leaving him…I AM NOT ON A BEACH OR ON A CRUISE.  I am WORKING.  Back breaking physical labor.  Do I get to see friends?  Sure.  Do we get to sometimes eat at some good restaurants?  Yep.  Do I have a good time?  Yeah.  My parents are here, Richard and Jackie from the Kibbutz are here, Subhe and Cathy who run the hotel are here.  We laugh and tell stories and see cool shit, but in a lot of ways, I am just working in a foreign country.  I wouldn’t really call it vacation.

What the heck are we doing here?  We are digging a site called “Sepphoris” and this is the last year my dad will be here.  We have been uncovering a very large public building for several decades now and this is the last hurrah.  After this, material and data will be collated and Field V will be published as one of several volumes.  Field I is already out and Field II is due out this fall or spring. We live in a hotel, we used to live on a Kibbutz.  There are pros and cons to each one and each place is different.  I miss one when I am staying at the other.

This is what I am doing while away from my fiance and, sometimes, my blog.  This is what currently influences my life while Jonathan ponders wedding planning at home.  I have learned, however, that I certainly cannot escape thinking about it.  I get questions all the time from volunteers and fellow excavators.  I remember things we need to do, and, of course, I wonder about our attempts to win $10,000 (which will be announced June 1).

This is me, for now.


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