First Week, final

Third Post, Installment 3

The archaeology is going well, although we have had to purchase tools because another excavation at the nearby site of Cana has been borrowing ours and some have vanished into some parallel universe populated by odd socks from the dryer and repairmen who leave jobs half done. We had to order picks from a hardware store just down the street. The proprietor, whom I just met, invited me to have coffee with him when we pick up the tools. This is typical in the Middle East, where hospitality is dear.

The Samford crew is approaching the task of archaeology with enthusiasm and curiosity. Many have been made Assistant Area Supervisors in their squares. Anna Wilgus literally jumped up and down when Joanna Strange asked if she would like to be an assistant. I asked Caroline May and Jack Wilgus which of them anticipated returning to Sepphoris or digging somewhere else. Since both expressed an interest, I named them as “co-assistants.” The only issue left to decide was whom I would train first, which they resolved by employing the scientifically tested method of rock-paper-scissors. Jack will begin his training tomorrow. Since our crew is now composed of one Area Supervisor and two AASs, we have taken to calling ourselves “The Officers’ Club.” Caroline and Jack compete with one another in good natured fashion and have devised a point system beyond my understanding, much less control, to rank who is doing the better job.

As for our archaeological goals, they are to test our hypothesis that a structure that we have been treating as a single, large building (40 x 60 meters: one full city block), our Field V, is in fact a single building. Since our archaeology is driven by archaeological questions, we typically do not attempt to uncover a large building in its entirety, because after awhile the volume of data we generate exceeds its usefulness to us. If we can determine the phases of a building’s construction, use, and destruction, and what happened before and after those things, and if answering those questions allows us to make inferences about institutions and values of the people who occupied and used this space, we feel satisfied that we have done good archaeology. The Tsippori National Park, on the other hand, wants something for tourists to see, and that desire generates an entirely different set of goals: they want us to uncover all of the building and to remove all standing balks.

Consequently, two of our squares are working on our archaeological goals while two others are removing balks (a balk is one meter of earth left standing between each square). But they’re removing those balks stratigraphically by using good archaeological methods. I’m sure the park would rather that we take them out quickly.

As I said in the first installment, today is Sunday, and some of our crew have headed out to shop, some to church (there is a Baptist church and school up the street a ways), and some to the beach at Dor. The town is quieter on Sundays because of the large Christian population. I have been assuming that the family that owns and runs the Hotel Galilee (the Hamids) is Christian, but they are all Muslims, although Subhe, the brother with whom we liaise, says, “But I believe in Jesus and Mary and all that too.” Just yesterday Subhe was complaining about the socialized medicine that they have here because he believes that doctors treat only symptoms without adequately examining their patients. So he took my father, who was feeling ill, to a private doctor, an 86 year old man who trained in the American University in Beirut, and whose office seemed unchanged since the 1950s. He carefully examined my father, asking many detailed questions and taking notes, looking in all the places that doctors look, and actually thumping his chest and back—something I haven’t seen in a long time. He was also able to take a urine sample, place it in the centrifuge, make a slide, and view it right there. The end result was a diagnosis of viral infection and a couple of prescriptions, and a father who is feeling much better today.

My point in narrating all this is that life goes on here in Israel. In the States the only events in Israel that are newsworthy are of violent acts or the building of settlements. But in the workaday world, in which the Jews of Nazareth Illit come into Lower Nazareth for the good Arab food, in which Jewish tour guides bring their groups to this hotel run by Muslims who speak Hebrew, in which Christian college students attend the local Baptist church, and dare I say in which a crew of Christians and Jews excavates an ancient site, the problems and disputes are much more mundane: where to park, getting a good deal in the shops, passing the driver test for a license. All of this non-news is what we call peace, and it happens constantly, away from the network camera’s eye.

May the mundane overwhelm the newsworthy in this small patch of land.

Pray for the peace of Israel.

James

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