Local time at Horbat Omrit, Israel

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last day +1

If you're still hanging around, I've got a 2 hour wait at Ben Gurion Airport, so I'll tell you what happened today. The bus left at 7:30 this morning for Jerusalem with a small Hyundai close behind. Said Hyundai containing Bill, Tracy, Nancy and Flora. The first stop was the holocaust memorial. We left early to get to the hotel, drop the car, and take a taxi to old city where we met the gang again for a tour. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a highlight. Check out this link for a bit of its history and an amazing squabble.

I spent the afternoon in the hotel lobby and left for the airport just in time for rush hour and the setting sun in my face. I made it ok , have checked in and passed security (well, one more check) and now wait for a late night flight to Munich. I won't blog Germany so Auf Wiedersehen!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last Day

Here's my involuntary guest blogger John Robinson. I won't be blogging from Germany but will send out a few emails. Bye for now.

Yep, it’s now official. We are done at the site.

We spent half the morning filling sandbags, moving sandbags, covering the Frescos and stuff….. things like that. Then back to The Kib (to use Bill’s term) for breakfast. Then a lot of other people went back to the site for more sandbag work. I was lucky enough to be seen by Paul really quickly after he got back for breakfast, so I stayed back and got to do the redundant, monotonous, repetitive, boring paperwork. As I’m sure you can see, it was so redundant, etc., that it rubbed off on me. Basically what I was doing was going through all of the drawings that we had made and putting in the elevations and pottery buckets, then copying down what pottery buckets contained what and where they were found and what day they were from. Like I said, monotonous repetitive boring work.

Then in the afternoon we started to think about packing.

At 700 pm we had the end of season party by the pool. That was fun. We got to hear all about how what we found has changed their thoughts about what the site was like. It was pretty interesting. Then afterwards we got to go swimming. It was really warm. I like it when the sun warms water…..

Now we’re all packing for tomorrow. We have to be down by the front office at 0700 for a light breakfast, then the bus is leaving for Jerusalem at 0730. So I guess I won’t be pigging out today. Dang.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Days 31 and 32: Sloth and laziness

An apology to all my fans, blog-fatigue is my only excuse.

We finished with final photographs today and the drawing of the walls (balks). Above is one that I helped with. The string is a reference point to help put exact drawings on graph paper. We'll help clean up the entire site tomorrow and then that's it.

The valley that we sit on one side of has a ridge of about 2300 feet on the other side. There is a cable car that goes up to the top and that's where I went today. Here's a shot from on the way up. You better zoom in on this picture!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 30: Monkey Beach!

The trip today was to Sepphoris, but I've been there 3 times, and Tracy wanted to go back to the Med, so... Monkey Beach! As Helen knows already, I didn't actually go in but did get my feet wet. We spent a few hours talking to the South African beach bum we met last week (he's sleeping in a lifeguard post) and soaking in the view. We stopped at the "north mall" in Kiryat Shmona for falafal and shwarma (gyro) on the way back, the end of a good day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 29: Nimrod's Fortress

Well, not Nimrod, but some Muslim sultan. It's not the greatest set of ruins but location, location, location. Built in the 13th century (hey, wait, that's when there was activity at Omrit) on top of the almost 6000 ft high hill above. Natalie, Carli and Jordan asked me if I would take them there and, of course, I did. Here's a view toward the valley from there. Omrit is behind the black, burnt hill on the left.
On the way back we stopped at a roadside stand run by Duruz (plural of Druze) (Druze women wear distinctive dress). We had bought a 1/2 kilo of cherries the day before (yummy) and today I got a pita sandwich like none I had eaten before and a jar of goat cheese in olive oil that I put out for the Saturday night BBQ. Forgot to get a picture...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 28: Galil Mountain

This afternoon I and 3 compatriots went to visit the Galil Mountain Winery and a fine time was had by all. It was a larger operation than I expected (1,000,000 bottles a year) and a nice shop and tasting bar. We were too late for a tour but woman pouring and describing the wine we tasted took us on a quick run-through. The winery sits just south of the Lebanese border, half-way to the Sea.

The last area I described had a lot of rock and stone tumble that revealed a hole when removed. Although there is a nice column drum in one of the walls and we just found a Doric column capital when we tore down the wall between 2 squares.

The square we started a few days ago, after removing the surface tumble has a wall and some rough floors. Made of big heavy stones. We're not very deep but we're going to quit for this season on that square. Cleaning, drawing and photographing will occupy Saturday (Shabbat again!) and Monday. Then we clean up the site and leave until next year.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 27: Winding down

The work is not quite winding down but I am. Everyone is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 8 of us went out this afternoon to fill sandbags that will be used to cover and protect uncovered features that we want to be around next year and the years after. The temple stairs in the above picture may get that treatment. (They are actually working in the area where the stairs to the earlier shrine were once covered over.)

Went off to a nice restaurant this evening, had a pasta with salmon dish and a great
crème brûlée. Beats kib food all to heck. The honchos turned up in another restaurant in the same shopping center. Guess they feel the same way.

P.S. I'm told the kib pub is open more than 1 night a week. Believe it or not, I've never been.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 26: Charlie

Since Beverly is a fan of this blog, her husband Charlie Reagan is today's theme. He's been a volunteer at Omrit for the last 7 or 8 years and has made himself indispensable. He drives trucks and vans, records all our pottery, glass and other finds in a computer database (a major job) and does a lot of heavy lifting too in the squares. Of course, his most important job is putting down the wheelbarrow some time after 8am and driving off to pick up our field breakfast. And delivering it in a timely manner. Thanks Charlie!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 25: Sculpture Garden

Have I mentioned that Kibbutz Kfar Szold has a sculpture garden? I think not, but it does. It's a combination of folk art and a museum of old (kib) agricultural machinery. I don't know who did it (I think maybe just kib residents) and there is a sign down on the highway directing one up. The student consensus is "weird" and "creepy", but, of course, I like it though it's not first rate folk art.

Speaking of the kib, it's clear that it's a dying rather than a dynamic entity. The factory buses workers in (Russian and Arab) and there are many abandoned buildings that the archaeologists use for storage. Lots of decaying features too, like tennis and basketball courts that are unusable, and the outdoor movie theatre never has movies and the pub is open one night a week, but the olympic-sized pool is open and the sculpture garden is watered and maintained. The kib'll last a while longer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 24:In the hole

We gussied up our first square today - after some delays - and final pictures were taken. This always before the sun comes up over the Golan so that there are no shadows. So you know how earlier we had to arrive. Much.

Our second square proceeds apace and we've hit the archaeological jackpot: a hole. An empty hole. Right next to our first square with walls and random good stuff, we have: nothing. After all the rocks and stones that signified nothing were removed we had a hole. We're a meter down and hitting really fine silt so we may hit 2 meters and bedrock tomorrow. There is one column drum that we haven't found the bottom of yet - so there's a little hope. Square 3 coming up very shortly - time is running out.
The afternoon saw a road trip with Carli, Katie and Emily to Metulla. Metulla is in the northwest corner of our Valley projecting out into Lebanon, which surrounds it on 3 sides. It's a faux-Swiss resort town very prettily laid out. The Swiss Chalet was, however, named the Alaska Inn and I had a nice latte there. We also saw the above tank. (That's Lebanon in the background)

Tracy, Paul and I went off to dinner to a restaurant serving trout from the Jordan River. A fancy place with ducks and swans on the creeks running through the outdoor dining area and a peacock in the parking lot.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 23: Today it's all-Bill

This morning I got a ride into Q. Shmona to the El Dan car rental agency and picked up a little Hyundai. Wheels! Tracy was with me and off we went to the Med. We followed the Lebanon border around the north of Israel heading to the sea. Less than 2 hours later we are at Monkey Beach! The beach along this northern coast of Israel is quite undeveloped and we were lucky to find this public beach on the Mediterranean.

Tracy chatted up the South African bartender as we drank a beer and shared a large plate of fries. We were sitting at an outside bar and checking out the waves. Heaven.

When we returned Natalie, Nancy and Flora and I headed for the mountains north of us. We had a circle route planned out but we got sidetracked in a Syrian Arab town in the Golan. The road went in but we couldn't find where it came out. But we had a good mental map of that town before we backtracked and came back. My riders were quite calm, mostly, as I assured them that those Syrian flags all over the place didn't indicate animosity to us. We didn't stop to ask for directions though.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 22: Half-day Shabbat

I should have told you about Becca's photo blog earlier. If you can't get enough of Omrit and Israel, check it out.

On Friday everyone is tired, weary and exhausted. The Shabbat half-day, though, is full of enthusiasm and energy. "What? It's time to go? Let me finish here!" But breakfast at the kib at 9:30, BBQ tonight and almost 48 hours of rest is a fine thing. As things go slow this afternoon I'm thinking, "Boy, it sure would be nice to have a car!" Hey, wait, I'm getting one tomorrow. Already have 2 lists: places to visit and people who want to visit. The Galil Mountain Winery is high on the list.
Major pottery reading today, our ceramicist is up from Jerusalem, with young son. Always exciting, it's even more so when she looks at a small piece of pottery and says "Roman lamp" or "Hellenistic". And Daniel is always ready to help.

Day 21: Mixed-up Friday

A topsy-turvy day is my only excuse for not blogging promptly. The grass fire Thursday burnt all around our site but didn't penetrate it. We generally keep the weeds low, this is was probably the reason. It burnt some of our shade tent ropes though, it came that close. It has the benefit of letting us see the ground a lot better and one staff member is prowling around looking for the area to start the next 10 years of work. (We expect locusts or frogs to hit next week.)

There are areas near our site (starting half-way up the hill in the picture above, for example) that are fenced off as old mine fields. There was a Syrian military position near here that the Israeli Army captured (though not easily) during 1967 war and both sides had mine fields around the border. The fire set off a number of them.

We went out a later in the morning but only stayed a few hours - The air was a bit foul and ash was flying a little. Most of us came out later in the day though. A huge flock of storks was circling around in the late afternoon but I think they had to move on a little to find a good unburnt spot to settle.

I was fortunate enough to be invited out in the evening by the staff to go with them to the home of Israeli friends of the Omrit excavation. (My bike seller (!) and his wife (who works at Tel Hai)). It was a nice meal and good conversation. There were tables set up outside where we ate - which reminded me of some similar good times I had many years ago in Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 20: Well, maybe not.

We got a wildfire near the site. Bummer. We get to sleep in an extra hour so the situation can be evaluated in the morning. Crop duster planes are dropping red stuff and land mines are exploding. What a county!

Day 20: Yes We Can!

Why aren't I disillusioned by this man yet? Well, maybe a little, but what a magnificent speech today. Check it out on YouTube. It being given in Cairo I got to listen live. The blog today is All Obama All The Time. He said all the things that needed to be said, that everybody but the participants has been saying. It was a nice addendum to the Tel Hai students from last night. I think the President was channeling that conversation.

Unfortunately I had to listen on Fox (the British news channel, also owned by Murdoch, cut away right after to cover a murder trial) so no commentary that I wanted to listen to. Just as well. It feels so good to have a president interested in the middle east for something other than oil and oil.

"I believe that our daughters have as much to contribute as our sons." When's the last time that was broadcast in Cairo? I'm glad I got to listen to the speech from only a few hundred miles away.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 19 redux, Tel Hai

Tel Hai Academic College is a local 4 year school that has a Center for Peace and Democracy that strives for a dialog between Arab and Jewish students. One of the facilitators and 4 students came over this evening to give us a presentation about the program and to tell us their "narratives". It's one thing to read about about the conflict in this part of the world, quite another to listen to people who are living it. Actually the biggest unresolved conflict seemed to be between the religious Jew and the non-religious Jew! If the non-religious Jew feels oppressed in this society, think how the Arabs feel. (And it's always interesting to hear people use the word "hegemony" seriously.)

Next week we're going over to the college to meet with their entire group.

Day 19: altar

OK, I can tell you about it but I can't tell you it has an inscription on it. The crew digging near the temple steps found a horned altar. The photo is turned sideways with the pallet on the left. Date not yet determined. More info, I imagine, when it's published.

Our new square had many, many tightly packed big rocks and stones on the upper-most level, looking like they had fell from a height and were wedged in together. As you can see.

Rough work but we got most of them out. Looking forward to seeing what's underneath. Hopefully more information about what was in the square that we dug out right next to it. Here's a picture of the "water feature" (fountain) that caused us to work in this area in the first place:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 18: Going slow

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee

It was a good day at the dig, I left feeling slightly peppy which is a good sign. We're digging in a new area so nothing to report yet, except "tumble". There are sure some big rocks and stones near the surface and I wonder how they got there...

The people digging on the temple made a wonderful find, so wonderful I can't even tell you about it. That info will have to be face-to-face. Maybe I can talk the honchos into letting me mention it on the blog.

But the weather is quite hot in the afternoon and that really slows me down, so no great blogging today. A shout-out to Lindsay's parents!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 17: Bet She'an

It's hard to exaggerate about this place. 250 people worked full-time for over a decade and didn't uncover half of what is there. The city was abandoned in the 8th century after a well-documented earthquake. There was no other urban area close to rob out the fallen stones so it was just gradually covered over. The person in charge of those 250 people comes to Omrit often and gave us our tour.

Before the tour we stopped at the ancient city gates of Tiberias and after we at a lot of meat at a restaurant on the banks of the Jordan.

And a reminder that you can see a larger version of a picture by clicking on it or zooming your browser.