uncovering ancient Jerusalem
13.6 Reese goes down a shaft
13.6 Bucket line
13.6 Diggers smile
13.6 Brent and Omrit
13.6 Amir and Kyle
13.6 Dry sifting
13.6 Dig workers
13.5 Inside a cave
13.5 Morning on the dig site
13.5 Dig Site View North
13.5 Dig Site View Northeast
Dec Slide 12
Dec Slide 11
Dec Slide 9
Dec Slide 5
Dec Slide 4
Nov Slide 9
Slide 10.10
Slide 10.9
Slide 10.3
Slide 19
Slide 20

Speaking Hebrew

We are several weeks into the dig now and I am already well versed in the art of swinging a pick, scraping, brushing and, of course, participating in the bucket lines. Where I find more difficulty is in the area of communication. While most of the workers on the site can speak English, the Israelis all prefer to speak Hebrew in casual conversations with each other. When that happens, I listen to the flurry of conversation going back and forth and try to pick out the occasional word. With the help of Pimsleur Hebrew lessons, a course that all the Herbert W. Armstrong College dig volunteers are taking, I can understand the most basic of sentences.

Often as the Hebrew conversations continue back and forth, I stand bewildered to the side until they ask me something. This is it: the culmination of weeks of Hebrew training are about to be wielded with all the skill I can muster. I promptly stutter out, Ani lo mevin.” (I do not understand.) That is one sentence I can use on a regular basis.

I know, I know. I have a long way to go before I will be able to converse with the Jews in their native dialect, but thankfully, they are patient with me and seem to know English far better than I know Hebrew. One man on the dig told me that he came to the dig with the intention of learning better English. So the conversation is not completely stagnant. The Israelis are happy to teach me Hebrew words, and I can lend my knowledge of the English language to them.

In fact, the Jewish people are delighted to hear that the international workers are attempting to learn Hebrew. They are quick to lend a hand with the odd word or phrase that will help bridge the language gap. They will correct a misspoken word, and compliment a well-used Hebrew term with a congratulatory, “Tov me’od!” (Very good!)

Sometimes, there is a word that just cannot be communicated between the two languages, and a more creative means must be used to convey information. One such instance was when a man was trying to ask me where he could find some tin. He did not know the English word for tin, so a lengthy dialogue ensued involving a number of people, culminating in them singing a song from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” From this brief musical exchange, we were able to make a link to the tin man and from there, to tin.

So, language will continue to be something that we will work to overcome while we finish out our stay in Israel. There are a few hurdles to face—but with perseverance, even a lo kolkach tov (not so good) understanding of the language now can eventually turn into a yofi (great) mastering of Ivrit (Hebrew).

Until next time, Shalom!

The Byzantine Tower

In October, the diggers discovered a fragment of a large architectural decoration from the Herodian period while excavating the ruins of a Byzantine tower.

The First Bes Discovered in Jerusalem

On October 9, the day after Sukkot, a mysterious, tiny, chalky item fell out of a wall that was carefully being dismantled. The artifact, only about an inch tall, is a necklace pendant depicting the ancient Egyptian idol named Bes.

According to Dr. Eilat Mazar, the white pendant is made out of faience, and was originally green. She said that it was a miracle that the artifact survived after being buried in between dirt and stone. It is also the first Bes idol ever to be found in Jerusalem.

Bes was believed to be ancient Egypt’s god of fertility who helped with childbirth and was a protector and entertainer of children. He was often portrayed with a large head, feathered crown, protruding tongue and bowlegs.

New information regarding Bes has been revealed recently in drawings on a pithos discovered at the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud excavation in the Sinai desert. The drawings on the pithos, though first discovered in the 1970s, have since faded to reveal a change in the figures depicted.

Biblical Archaeology Review wrote in their November/December 2012 issue, “According to Pirhiya Beck, who interpreted the drawings for a 1982 article (she has since died), the two main figures [in the pithos drawing] … are both male. All agree that they are depictions of the Egyptian deity Bes with typical wide-legged stance, arms akimbo, grotesque facial features, feathered headdresses, and only a lion skin for a garment.”

After several years, however, the soot on the pithos faded to reveal that the second figure might actually be female. The pictures of the drawings on record were updated accordingly in 2012, and some say the update could “change the interpretation of the whole scene” (ibid.).

Whether or not the ancient pagan god Bes is proven to be exclusively male or that he is sometimes depicted as a male and female couple, it is interesting that this latest revelation and subsequent debate coincides with our discovery of the first Bes idol in Jerusalem.

The Discovery of Bes

In this mid-October update, diggers sing songs while excavating, Herbert W. Armstrong College chancellor Gerald Flurry visits the dig site, and an ancient Egyptian idol, Bes, is found.

A Group Photo

A Group Photo

By popular demand, here is a captioned list of all the AC diggers with some of the dig site staff pictured in one of our group photos:

Back row, from left to right: Area supervisor to Area B Brent Nagtegaal, Vienna Flurry, Callum Wood, Harley Breth, Douglas Culpepper, Tyrel Schlote, Stephen Flurry.

Middle row, from left to right: Bailey Crawford, Laskey Hart, Monica Antonio, archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, Autumn Krueger, Gabrielle Haddad, Amy Flurry, general assistant Mendi, assistant area supervisor to Area A Tzachi Lang.

Front row, from left to right: Christopher Eames, Sarah Patten, Michelle Cuenco, Elizabeth Blondeau, Jessie Hester, Jude Flurry.

Not pictured: Area supervisor to Area A Amir Cohen-Klonymous, assistant area supervisor to Area B Margo, Dr. Mazar’s excavation assistant Ariel, dig site photographer Ryan Friesen, AC dig volunteer Rachel Dattolo.


Sights & Sounds from the Site

Walk with my friends and me… Boots clap on the pavement as nearly 20 of us begin earnestly walking our daily, morning route here in Jerusalem. There’s a clamor of excited voices. Fresh sights, fresh sounds. The dark of the night is quickly being overtaken by the morning.

AC students and alumni in Jerusalem headed to the Ophel excavation.

The great moments of this walk come near the end – as we ascend to the Temple Mount area. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the country of Jordan from the peak of the hill above me.

Over the months, I have become keenly aware that three religions are playing King of the Hill on these ancient mounts. Various Christian cemeteries dot the hill around me. Many Jewish edifices and synagogues stand in the Old City just ahead. A minaret rises from the Kidron Valley to my east, glowing with seemingly-out-of-place neon green bulbs. Ah, Jordan is not visible today – too much dust.

As I trek up one more slight hill and then begin descending on the other side, Al-Aqsa Mosque towers above the landscape – and then the Mount of Olives in the distance, seemingly over its shoulder. The sun is spreading a pale orange blanket on the sky, on a sheet of pink. There is the occasional honk of a car horn somewhere beyond the bend.

When I arrive at the site, I hear the drone of a mechanical arm rising over the excavation site. It’s lifting a couple giant bags of soil and rocks, liberating them from the burden weighing on them for thousands of years. I watch for a moment and absorb the scenery all around, breathe deeply. Enough. Set your bag down and let’s go. Shoes thump on the wooden walkways as we descend to our cubicles of stone and dirt.

From above, the site reminds me of a fair, with temporary tents set up all around. These elevated, netted shades provide us a haven from the sun. The minutes pass as I remove the gray dirt – more like dust in this spot – from a pit.

AC student Chris Eames reveals the past with his pick.

A little later, a convoy of tourists pass the stretch of fence besides our area. Hats, cameras, sunglasses – and most dressed in white, it seems. I continue digging, but overhear the din of sounds as they point and comment. On a few faces, glasses lower as they gaze through the fence. The line is soon gone. Then, the area supervisor walks beside our square, which is steadily lowering. His assistant is with him. They converse in Hebrew about the area beside me. I continue working, dumb to the insights, until he begins speaking to me in English.

Several meters away, a stone reverberates with a low hum as a dust-covered worker pounds a breach in a stone wall. Before long, a bell rings from above, as if children were being set loose for recess from the classroom. My area supervisor overlooks the dig site from a preserved tower, like a watchman. He calls “Hahf-seh-kah!” It’s break time. Workers from various heights and platforms scamper up, up.

We share conversation over some tea during the break inside a few ancient, open-air rooms of a Byzantine structure – almonds and cookies too.

Then it’s back to the dirt and rubble. We set out to remove the very Earth from beneath our feet. It’s a huge undertaking and it takes every back, every hand, the effort of all. From the echoing hollow of a room out of sight, I soon hear – in a New York accent – “Sha-shehr-eht!” Chain. It’s time for the bucket line.

The bell again. The second time bell means lunch. The gathering to the break area develops even quicker this time.

Another hour or two of getting closer to history… Before closing the “office,” we hear the  Muslim prayers and calls to prayer resound through the valley of Kidron to our east.  The sound booms as it’s voiced from the speakers at the crown of a minaret.

We’re eager for what will develop. I expect a lot more hopeful sights and sounds yet to come.

The Ophel Road is the southernmost boundary of our dig site. We exit along this road every day. It’s common to witness a clogging of the traffic – and when that happens you can expect the horns to sound in a major way.  For a few of the students, when they’re out of the gate, they’re off to the races. It’s a 25 minute walk, but only a 15 minute run – so why not?! “See ya!” It’s over, but we’ll be right back at it tomorrow.

Take a look before you go. One of us shot this video with our phone as we passed near the Dung Gate – a gate just a little farther to the west, leading directly north to the Western Wall. It’s a bar mitzvah!