Monday, September 12, 2011

The Adventures Continue...

If you are interested in following my experiences as a Fulbright fellow in Konya Turkey, please visit my other blog!  I hope to chronicle an exciting and challenging year as an English Teaching Fellow at Selcuk University.  In fact, I write this very blog post from Ankara, Turkey, where I am completing my training!  I arrive in Konya September 15th.  I hope you'll follow me on my adventures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whirlwind finish

Final shot of M11/N11
I am back in Minnesota after a wonderful 2011 season excavating at Omrit.  The final few days of our trip were extremely busy and very exciting.  We wrapped up our time at Kibbutz Kfar Szold with final photos, pottery reading, and a goodbye banquet, complete with felafel and photo slideshows!  It was bittersweet to leave the kibbutz and I miss sitting out on the lawn reading in the sun now that it is cold and rainy here in Saint Paul.

Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum
We drove into Jerusalem Sunday morning, and went straight to the Israel Museum.  At the museum, we got a personal tour from the director of the conservation lab, Doody, and got a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the conservation lab and museum store rooms.  We also got to see the brand new Omrit installation in the Herodian architecture section of the Archaeology Wing, which was fantastic!  After our personal tour, we had around 30 more minutes to see more of the exhibition space.  Afterwards, many who were interested left for the Old City, to see the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Around 8 of us who had already experienced the Old City decided to remain at the museum to explore its galleries more fully.  Some highlights of my extra time at the museum include some beautiful illuminated folios of the Shanamah, or Persian epic poem "King of Kings," and Alexander the Great mosaic from an early church, and some reconstructed synagogues from around the world (including India, Suriname, and Venice).  I also enjoyed seeing some more modern exhibits, and after four weeks of excavating ancient Roman artifacts, my brain was thankful for the variety!

The Old City of Jerusalem
After our extra time at the Museum, we went to our hotel on Mount Scopus and had a few hours down-time before dinner.  I sat out on the hotel's terrace, and sipped a gold star while watching the sun set over the Old City.  It was a beautiful view and relaxing way to wrap up a busy day.  We drove out to Abu Ghosh, a town outside Jerusalem for dinner, and afterwards our friends from CUNY Queens left for the airport.  The Carthage students came back with us to the hotel, but left at around 1 am to go catch their flight.  When I awoke the next morning, only the Macalester students remained!

Meeting with Dalia Rabin at the Yitzhak Rabin Center

Monday was perhaps the most fulfilling and interesting day of the entire season.  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the hotel (real coffee!) and then squeezed into a van for a drive over to Tel Aviv for a special visit to the Yitzhak Rabin Center.  The center is dedicated to furthering peace and democracy within Israeli society, and has a special focus on education and exploring Israel's domestic diversity.  We toured the museum, and then had the great pleasure to have a private meeting with Sharon Mars, the director of International Relations, and the center's chair: Dalia Rabin, Yitzhak's daughter.  Sharon explained the center's mission and history, and Dalia answered questions.  The meeting was a great way to wrap up the work we'd been doing with Tel Hai in our Skype class and over the past few weeks in Israel.  After a few short hours at the Yithak Rabin center and in Tel Aviv, we piled back into the van and headed back to Jerusalem.

Fuat and Andy
Ice Cream in Ramallah

Once back in the City of Light, we met up with Fuat, brother of Leo (the owner of Macalester favorite Shish restaurant). Fuat took us into the West Bank, and we spent the afternoon touring the capital of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.  Fuat took us by Yassar Arafat's tomb, to a world famous shawarma restaurant.  Aside from shawarma, we sampled some sheep's brains, which were not as delicious as the shawarma.  Fuat then took us into the heart of Ramallah for some ice-cream, which is a unique concoction made with gum resin.  The ice cream was good, though not my favorite.  However, although the food was delicious, the actual tour of Ramallah was far more interesting.  I rode in a cab with Andy, and our cab driver was a Pan-Arabaist who had just been in Dara, heart of the recent unrest in Syria!  Listening to his musings on life as a Palestinian living in east Jerusalem, and actually seeing the visible changes once we left Israel and entered the West Bank helped us understand more fully the complexities of the conflict in Israel.  While the Rabin center focused on the extreme diversity and divisions within Israeli society, our visit to Ramallha highlighted the fractured nature of the relationship between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.

Our visit to the Rabin center and to Ramallah fit so well together, and I think our travels and experiences on Sunday and Monday tied all our season's work together very nicely.  Our tour of the Israel Museum  highlighted how the history and artifacts from our excavation work is brought into the public sphere, where visitors from all over the world could engage and explore the past.  On the other hand, our meeting at the Rabin center and afternoon in Ramallah illustrated the complexity of attempting to attain peace in Israel-- because of divisions between Israelis and between Israelis and Palestinians.  Driving through the Kalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah was an eye-opening moment.  We finished the day feeling exhausted and emotionally drained, however I think many of us agreed that our experiences in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah were the best of the season.  We decompressed and discussed our impressions over dinner at the American Colony Hotel for our final meal, then we drove to the airport and headed our separate ways.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In the Field - Square M11

Closing Up

Well we have made it to the end of the dig.  Today we spent both the morning and afternoon sweeping out our mega-square to get it ready for final photos tomorrow.  H8, Machal's square, already took final photos, and we have spent the last week in a heightened state of activity as we scramble to get everything finished up before we leave for Jerusalem on Sunday.  The Omrit plague left us behind on site clean-up, but it seems we're about caught up today!  I will get some photos of M11/N11 tomorrow so we can have a before and after for the season.

Since we last talked about the square, we've not made much progress (because there wasn't much left to do).  We have M11 uncovered to pavers and to the monumental steps in almost the whole square.  A bit of the putative Byzantine flooring surface is left, and my squaremates took some of that out while I was out with the plague on Tuesday morning.  In N11, we took the trench down to bedrock, exposing the putative Byzantine wall which now acts as a separator between the two squares.  In the lower courses of the wall, we found a small corinthian column capital made of limestone, and a beautiful small marble capital too!

A shot of some of our Tel Hai friends from their visit on Tuesday night
Pictures, another session of pottery reading, and our final cookout tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tour of Square H8

Join Machal G ('12) for a tour of her square H8, located on the steps of the temple!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In the Field - Square H8

More gnat protection from our friends in H8.  The Bedouin look is big at Omrit this year.