Israel Tour, Day 9: Archaeology at tel Tamar

May 11

Here is a update on where we have been for the last few days. Our hotel in Jerusalem was very nice, but there was a problem with the wireless Internet. They had some desktop Internet stations, but I wrote the posts in my iPad. While I look intensely cool using the iPad, I cannot get the posts off the iPad to the desktop PC.

Right now we are back in Jordan, hanging out in a coffee / hookah shop. We tried to get Kayleigh to try the hookah, but she stood firm. (That was in fact a joke, Linda!).

I will also mention that we were safe in Jerusalem, although we aware of what was happening we were at no time in any danger. It was interesting to compare what we saw to what we saw on TV later. It is also possible that the US news is distracted from Jerusalem at the moment and are unaware of the tensions of the last few days.

Maybe more on that later, but back to the May 11 post:

Today was a first for me.  After breakfast we met Dr Tali Erickson-Gili, an archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority.  She is an expert in the Roman and Nabatean periods and specializes in pottery identification. After some orientation to archaeology in Israel, she marched us out to a section of the tel to do some actual digging.  Our project was to take down one of the balks between the squares from the original excavation. A balk is a small wall of dirt left after a section has been excavated. We used picks and trowels to loosen soil, then we filled buckets for the sifters to sift.  Clods of dirt must be broken,  rocks discarded, etc.  We worked hard until about noon, and then broke for lunch, then worked unto abut 2:30.  I worked filling buckets for most of the morning, but then sifted for an hour in the afternoon.  Digging was hot and sweaty, but the sifters caught a nice breeze.

I think most of the group enjoyed the work, although I heard a few complaints after lunch.  Still attitudes were good and even Amy said she was having fun. It was dirty work, every needed a shower (or two) before we boarded the bus for Jerusalem.

Israel Tour, Day 9: Quick update – archaeology is happening

We spent the first half of the morning digging at tel Tamar, and I am officially filthy. We have quite a bit or Roman and Nabatean pottery, but there is talk of a strike from the sifters. They want to visit the crocodile farm, believe it or not. It is hot, but not as hot as it could be.

On the up side, I am enjoying a homemade stuffed pepper with hummus and pita.

Israel Tour, Day 8: Arad, Masada, and “Do not lick the Dead Sea”

May 10

We started the day with a walk around tel Tamar.  We stayed at this site for two nights so we have had the opportunity to walk around the tel already.  I started the group out at the front of the tel and explained that this site is unique since there are a number of occupation levels exposed.  There is evidence of a middle bronze Canaanite village, although this has yet to be fully excavated.  there is a ninth century Israelite town with small Solomonic gates, as mentioned in First Kings. The town was controlled by Edomites in the sixth century b.c. and by the Nabateans in the first century b.c.  There is a major Roman presence in the first through third centuries a.d., including a bathhouse and tax collection booths.  The top of the tel has an Ottoman water system and a house from the British mandate, as well as an Israeli bomb shelter.  This is all within a relatively small sized archaeological park.

After our Tamar tour, we drove from Tamar to Tel Arad.

Kaliegh, as “water”

I personally love visiting tel Arad since it is an excellent archaeological site, covering both Canaanite and Israelite levels.  Maybe more important, it is rarely visited by Christian tours.  I have rarely encountered anyone else at the site.  It is nice to have the run of a major dig like tel Arad for and hour and a half.

There were several improvements to the site since my last visit. They have reconstructed a Canaanite house completely with a roof for shade.  This gives a nice feel of the size of a fairly wealthy Canaanite. I noticed that there is some on going work on the south side of the tel, and there is a major excavation under the Holy of Holies in the Israelite temple.  I would love to know if anything has been discovered in this work, it looks to me as if they are trying to dig under the existing temple without disturbing the Israelite level.

After Arad, we made the long drive back to the Dead Sea for a visit to Masada.  This is always a highlight, not only for the spectacular architecture of the site, but also for the fantastic view of the Dead Sea.  We have a fairly clear day so we could see across the Sea to the mountains of Moab.  Last trip there was so much haze you could not even see the Dead Sea.  We thought that the gondola was only available until four pm, since it is a holiday in Israel today, so we had to rush a bit.  As it turned out we did have until five, but I wanted to get us to the Dead Sea for a float.  Several of our group walked down the Snake Path this time.  

Our driver suggested a different location for floating in the Dead Sea, as it turns out it was exactly the same place we went last year. The name was different, and there were many more people there.  It was still less crowded that the beach at En-Boqeq.  Most everybody swam for at least an hour Shelby, Jessica, and Kayleigh went way in the Sea, thoroughly enjoying the float.  Despite my advice, several of the kids “tasted” the water, which is a huge mistake.

After a great dinner of spaghetti and meatballs at Tamar, Kate showed us her art.  She has an excellent selection of prints of watercolors she has done, many of them are scenes from around Tamar although she has done some nice scenes from Jerusalem as well.  She has some jewelry made from shell casings collected from the area, either necklaces or earrings.  I bought a print of tel Tamar and Amy bought a smaller print of the well at the top of the tel.  I will have the framed and display them in my office.

It was a beautiful, cool night in the desert, at least one card game has broken out, Scott Shaw and Josh Tweist are teaching our driver Tae Kwan Do, probably revolutionizing the Middle East peace process.

Tomorrow is our big archaeological day, starting at eight in the morning. We are all looking forward to learning how archaeologists do their job, sifting a bit of dirt and maybe discovering a new Dead Sea scroll or something.

Israel Tour, Day 7 (part 2): Evening Devotional

After I finished my post for this evening, we gathered for a short time of worship and sharing.  This was a really good time since most of the group was Able to share a story from the trip that impacted their thinking about the Bible.  Having just come from Galilee we had opportunity to think abut Jesus and what he claimed about himself.  Ryan led us in “how great the father’s love for us” (an excellent choice) and David Keller, a professor from Rochester College, gave an excellent devotion on how this land of Israel is a part of our spiritual heritage.  After a time of prayer many went out to look at the stars and enjoy a cool desert breeze.

It was a great way to mark the half-way point of our journey through Israel.

Israel Tour, Day 7: Qumran, En-Gedi

May 9

It was a big travel day today, leaving Ma’agan in Galilee and traveling to Tamar, south of the Dead Sea.  The Ma’agan resort is really a remarkable place, well worth a long visit if you ever visit the Galilee.

We drove south along highway 90, with our first stop at Qumran.  The temperature at Qumran is usually blazing, but it was low 80’s today with a gentle breeze.  We were able to take a slow walk through the site, stopping for a long time at the shade area at cave 4 for questions.  The breeze made it so nice we could have stayed longer, but for some, the gift shop is hard to resist.

After Qumran, we drove to En Gedi for lunch.  It was more than a little expensive (apologies!) but as we were told, the restaurant has not changed their prices, our dollar had lost value.  My last trip there were four shekels to a dollar, now we are at 3.2 shekels, some locations were on giving three shekels.  Our buying power is therefore greatly reduced.

After lunch we walked down to the Dead Sea at En Gedi.  The water is deep there and the color is quite blue.  Some the students climbed on what appeared to be a jungle gym for a few pictures, but it turned out to be an unused sun umbrella and we got yelled at.  No harm done, and they got a great picture.

We hiked the wadi David, otherwise known as En-Gedi. The walk is pretty easy, although there are a few flights of steps which might be challenging for some hikers.  The highlight is the waterfall at the back of the canyon. There was a nice breeze cooling us so we hung out there for a long time. Since it was after one pm when we started, there were not many other tourists, making it a real highlight of the trip.

The drive to Tamar was uneventful, although I always enjoy the view of the Dead Sea.  We had a great dinner, Kate had barbecue chicken for us, and it was excellent!  I chatted with several of the students and they already enjoy the life at Tamar.  There is nothing quite like life on an archaeological site.

Tomorrow we head to Arad and then Masada, with a quick dip in the Dead Sea in order to find out where we have cuts and bruises.