For the third year, ABR Associate Dr. Scott Stripling led a team of diggers to Israel to excavate the Byzantine monastery at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Joining Scott and his team was Dee Alberty from Baton Rouge, LA. Dee shares her experiences in this diary.
1 week before...
All packed. No turning back.
The Day Before
The Adventure is full-on! The morning began with a trip to Bethany (2 miles from Jerusalem) and to the tomb of Lazarus (next to the house of Mary & Martha). We read the scripture story and prayed for 'impossibly dead' situations or people in our lives. Very special.
In the afternoon, we previewed the worksite in this season's dig and organized our tools. More exciting than it sounds because we also drank tea in the Palestinian landowner's home. The dig site is in West Bank (tribe of Binyamin, rock throwing distance to tribe of Ephraim territory). The awkward thing was that we had a leading expert on pottery from Jerusalem with us (Hebrew)! I was like a mini-UN meeting ---both sides smiling, gracious, but not believing a word the other 'side' said :).
On a stroll thru the Khirbet (heap of ruins vs. a stratified tell), the pottery expert reached down picking up a discarded pottery handle and tossed it to me, casually mentioning that it was from the Second Temple period. (Time of Jesus!). Sign of good things to come, I think.
Day 1 - DIG
Work day begins at dark. Ai is just a 10 mile drive north from Jerusalem, located in the tribe of Binyamin, but we store our tools in the tribe of Ephraim, so we are working on 'the border'. We discuss Ezekiel on the way to work. The sunrise over the mountains of Moab is a stunning shade of red.
Just like any new construction site, our site supervisors have marked out the perimeters of our area, 6 meters square. We remove the loose rocks & scrape off the grass. Digging out old roots are the hardest job. (Am thinking I should be working this hard in my OWN yard.)
Learned much- like how a dig is sometimes lots of hard work and very few treasures. Application: much like starting to study a new book of the Bible. First, you find your parameters (context). Next, you toss out the rocks & scrape away the surface (my preconceived ideas of the book) First lesson yields few treasures, but is necessary work to make future, accurate finds.
About 2:30, we wrapped up work, put away our tools, and return to Jerusalem to wash our few treasures...with just enough time to visit the Mt. of Olives, visit where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemene, and watch the sun set on the Temple Mount. What a view...thinking of all the events here- past and future. Pinching myself that I am really here!
Today, the main thing I discovered is that I had LOTS of muscles that I've not used in quite a while! Long, hot shower really helped.
Day 2 - DIG
Now that they have all arrived, let me introduce our dig team.
Dr Scott Stripling, Sugarland TX, is our team leader. He is a member of Associates in Biblical Research and an amazing teacher! Knowledgeable, energetic, articulate, and really knows how to bring a team together. So many details to make the dig successful AND care for the needs of his little 'flock'. Driving like James Bond thru the back streets of Jerusalem is a great asset.
Abigail, 26, an efficient and kind young lady, is in charge of the 'square' in which I work. She's like Radar from M.A.S.H. -And an experienced, encouraging instructor in her own right. When not digging she works in a bakery and an optometrist's office in Idaho.
Tika Filat, 21, is a young lady I met in Moldova last summer at an English / Precept Bible Study camp. She is majoring in history and digs digging. She speaks Romanian, Russian, and English very well. She brought delicious chocolate treats with her ...and shares with all of us at just the right time!
Jacob, North Texas State University student, arrived on Monday. He is also an experienced digger and is learning Russian & Arabic. Very helpful skills when digging in the West Bank.
Mike Luddeni, 78, is the photographer for ABR. Lots of digging experience and chunks goofas (rubber pails) of rock and soil like a man half his age!
Rise-N-Shine at 4:30 am. Quick bite of breakfast. Ezekiel devotions in the mini-van on the way to the site. Trek up the hill (breathing heavy) just in time for sunrise. Dig until 2:30 then head back to Jerusalem to wash pottery. Gather downstairs in hotel restaurant to 'read' pottery from previous day's treasure haul. Wash up and go to a good supper and go directly to bed. Do it again tomorrow. Life is simple: life is good.
Day 3 - DIG
So today is supposed to be 'hump day' according to those more experienced. But it went surprisingly well. Same old body aches. But now getting a full 8 hours sleep (with a 90 minute 'intermission' that I used for studying) last night really helped.
Today, Scott discovered the complete threshold of the church in Jacob's square-- about 7 meters (not robbed out), and Abby discovered downward steps in her square. Maybe down into a mikveh? Or baptistry? Or cistern? More clues tomorrow, hopefully. All I found was a huge intact pottery handle and small neck of a glass jar (rare). And also a chicken bone (leg with a spur?). Still finding lots of Roman & Byzantine era pottery sherds & tiny tessera (mosaic squares).
Tika had a chance to share the gospel with our beloved Jewish guard....in Russian! She said that our devotional this morning on Ezekiel being the 'watchman who warns' was still on her mind when God opened a door of opportunity.
Also, here's a photo of one of our very helpful Palestinian workers, Samir. He wears a Texas Longhorn's cap, a New York sweatshirt, and a brass American Eagle rodeo belt buckle. Today the Palestinian workers were served hot tea prepared by our Jewish guard. As Scott said, 'Maybe world peace will start here at Ai!'
Our group went to Hebrew University tonight for a special lecture on inscriptions. But Tika & I stayed home to rest. Got lost walking to a chicken shawarma joint and ended up at the posh American Colony Hotel. They welcomed us even with our dusty work clothes, work boots. Sat near the fireplace with a beautiful view of the lighted pool area. Nice treat.
Sweet dreams, all.