The Fragility of Human Life

Growing up in a small suburban town effected my perception of the world. Ostensibly, my views were a condensed version of those which surrounded me my entire life– I never had to think for myself or even venture outside of the state for anything, all of the household comforts one could want were readily available. Having only traveled a handful of times I never imagined an opportunity quite like this.

Upon first settling in at our Kibbutz I experienced tremendous culture shock. Being away from your family/home is an ostracizing feeling and it toke awhile before I finally felt at ease. In many ways my small three person room has become home to me. Our Kibbutz has begun to take on the feeling of a neighborhood and we, like children, run around, visiting our friends. Although I am anxious to go back to America, I already feel an immense amount of grief when thinking about leaving Israel. When I fly back I will not only be leaving a country behind, but a piece of history as well. While here we have visited numerous sites, such as Banias, Caesarea Maritima, Zippori, Gamla, Nimrod, Hamat Teverya, and Tel-Dan. From the magnificent waterways found in Banias and Tel-Dan, to the awe inducing mosaics at Zippori and Hamat Teverya, each one of these places has taken a part of me with them. When witnessing the beauty of these sites I felt myself connect to the ancient people who once occupied the area. To see a world in which they confronted everyday, one which, to them, was labeled as “home” is a surreal experience. When I am alone at these sites I can often picture a bustling town full of life, people working in shops, markets open on the streets, children playing around the temple, all the beautiful and wondrous things which make life what it is. Going out on these excursions has enabled me to grasp a better understanding of the ancient world and certain architectural designs. Having these different sites in mind I am able to compare them to one another in order to speculate differentiations in certain communities, this has given me a better perspective of Omrit. Often we can draw similarities within a layout of a city, sometimes addressing domestic quarters proximity to temples or even the role of a colonnade. Regardless of the specific information, simply opening one’s mind up to a myriad of cultures allows one to grasp its importance in the ancient world.

Arriving in Israel without much experience in archaeology, I am leaving with a thirst for more. Being a part of this project has further enhanced my appreciation for life. When you are excavating a wall centuries old, you begin to realize how fragile life truly is– so fragile in fact, that a piece of pottery lasts longer than a man’s life. Though this may seem sad, it is actually quite magical that we can leave a lasting impression on the world for future generations to come.

Farewell for now,

Brooke Marie Weltch

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  • Zippori National Park

 

 

Words to Live by

Hello Omrit fans,

It’s Jamie again. So the last time I wrote to you guys I talked about what it was like digging up ancient artifacts and traveling around to thought provoking locations. Now that we have been in Israel for about 3 weeks and our excavation is nearly complete, I decided I should impart some words of wisdom based off of what I have learned during my time in the trench.

  1. The baulk (which is basically the walls of stone or dirt that define the boundaries of your dig site) is life. Keep it neat and tidy.
  2. You will inevitably form a bond with your tools, so choose your partners wisely. I myself have a pair of twin hand picks named Idale and Octavia.
  3. A little healthy competition is never a bad thing. We use it as motivation to work even harder (most of the time)
  4. Be prepared for the many awkward positions you will have to use while digging. Think of it as a chance to do some interesting yoga poses. That will help, probably.
  5. And finally, keep it light. Laugh, make jokes, and enjoy being around your fellow peers; cause that’s the only way your going to stay sane.

I hope this helps anyone interested in future archeology. Otherwise, it’s good advice all the same. In about a week, we head out for some more adventures around Israel. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Until next time,

Jamie Livingston

Traversing Time

Hello, people who are reading this at any point in time. My name is Amanda Graham and I am a junior at Carthage College, majoring in Classical Archeology. Coming to Omrit is one of the best experiences that I made the conscious decision to come on this journey. The site is beautiful, which you have probably learned from other posts. Though some of the big changes that have happened since then is that we went to Gamla and went on this satisfying but torturous hike down a cliff to a wonderful site. The hike was a steep incline that we had to serpentine down a rocky path in no shade except for one tree. Though there was a wonderful breeze coming from the Sea of Galilee which made it bearable. The views from the top of the site were amazing and perfect photo opportunity, Most of all, to be able to see where an actual Roman siege happened was amazing. We even got a glimpse of a Griffin Vulture when we were standing in the synagogue. Then once we all made it to the top of the incline once again the cardio workout was intense and a great measure to what we can all do when we have no choice but to continue on, is a great lesson when trying to complete ones education in college. The next day though we got to go see Caesarea Maritima which was a beautiful archeology site that Herod had built to welcome the Romans on the harbor of the Mediterraean Sea. Walking through it was amazing and wonderful to see a new type of building stone that was not limestone or Basalt, which is mainly what we see at Omrit. From there we went on a beach excursion not to far from the site that was right near an ancient aquaduct. The feeling of playing in the water and being able to turn around and knowing that to get back to the bus you have to walk under one of the greatest innovations of the ancient world was a phenomenal experience that I would not change for anything.

All in all, I have made a myriad of new friends that I can not wait to stay in touch with once we leave, and met wonderful professors who are so knowledgeable in their fields that learning on this trip has been engaging and unique.

Until next time,

Amanda

Living History

At times it can be hard to imagine what once lay beneath the centuries old dirt which I now sift through. Yesterday we went to Tel-Hai college to see one of the columns that once held together temple two, it stood over thirty feet tall. Seeing the huge column reminds me that what we are excavating was once an active settlement, with many people bustling around, making offerings to Gods, and just living life as we are now.   I am surrounded by ancient beauty and it is more than I could have ever dreamed of. Maybe because I’m studying the past  so closely that time in the present seems to be  moving extra fast, but I have already been here for two weeks. In just weeks we have accomplished so much. We now need a ladder to get in and out of our square since we have dug so deep. What was exhausting work at first has now started to feel normal. I’m beginning to like waking up at 4:30 every morning because it means it’s dig time (and because each morning the director says something funny as he knocks on our door to wake us up, my personal favorite; wakie wakie eggs and bakie).

But my favorite part about this adventure so far is the trips that we take every weekend, this weekend we are headed to the Mediterranean and I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited to travel somewhere. This is the first time I have ever been out of the of the country and not only am I thousands of miles away from home but I am here without my family. I have never experienced anything like this in my life, it has truly been the most extraordinary journey and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Up until this point I have only ever dreamed of coming to Israel, and now, here I am.  I am so thankful that I am here, and that while being here I have made so many friends, and seen so many sights that are so old and carry so much history.

Farewell friends,

Miranda Fleisher

 

It Was Unexpected

Waking up at the crack of dawn every morning to move and sift dirt is hardly ideal for a 22 year old on summer vacation, but, damn is it worth it. I feel such excitement when something new is uncovered; pottery, thresh holds, stairs… anything that could connect us to an ancient world. Of course the physical benefits don’t suck either. Personally, I have learned that despite being thousands of years before my time, the people inhabiting this ancient site are not as different from us as most assume. If there is one thing I can take away from my 2 weeks at the dig site it’s that technology may have changed, but humanity is still the same. Every new aspect of this site I learn about seems to connect to my own world in some way. It’s something I didn’t expect to happen, but, it’s an interesting turn of events. I can’t wait to see what future excavations will teach me.

When we’re not digging, we travel to the most amazing places. Our latest conquest, Nimrod’s Castle. This is by far my favorite spot we have traveled to this far. The castle ruins were beautiful, so many balconies overlooking breathtaking views of the Hula Valley. I’ve always loved being in high places and this was an incredible experience for me. It was one of those places that makes you open your eyes and really see the world. You take a breath and life  slows down for a few moments while you relish the awe-inspiring scene right in front of you. Experiencing new cultures (past or present) is something all individuals should strive to accomplish. It improves your prospective and expands your knowledge about life. I look forward to having more of these moments in the 2 1/2 weeks we have left on this trip.

Until next time,

Jamie Livingston

The Dig of a Lifetime

Hello everyone, my name is James Galetti and I am currently a Sophomore at Carthage College, and I am majoring in Classical Archeology with a minor in Philosophy. I have been in Israel for about eight days now and so far, it has been one if the most memorable experiences of my life and will continue to be until my final day in this beautiful country and will remain a cherished experience well into my later years after college. Digging here at Omit is no easy task, waking up at 4:25am every morning only the first step into a long day of digging with your group in your set square that you will be excavating for the duration of your stay in Israel. The constant swing of a pickaxe into the dirt, digging out large amounts of heavy rocks, and filling bucket after bucket with dirt that you will later sift through in order to find pieces of pottery or bone, is part of the work that goes into Omrit. My experience digging here at Omit has been alot of long days with alot of hard work that I have come to enjoy. The ability to to hold a shard of pottery that once belonged to someone centuries ago or being able to walk on the steps of an ancient temple or touch walls made of limestone that could’ve once been room sheltering a family cause you to not mind the amount of dirt that gets collected on your clothes or in your nose and mouth, it also just sends this feeling that of awe and wonderment through your body. I’ve come to be excited when my alarm goes off in the early morning and getting to ready to participate in another day of hard work. All the labor and time that my fellow classmates and I put into the dig site day in and day out, always brings a small to my face when we get into our vans and leave the dig site around 11:30am. Once again digging at Omrit is a lifetime experience that I would not want to trade for a thing.

The Beginning of My Life

Hey everyone, welcome to a new year of the Omrit excavation! My name is Brooke Weltch and I am a Sophomore at Carthage College with a major in Classical Archaeology. As of today I have been in Israel for a total of five days and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. Prior to this experience I had never traveled outside of the country, that is, without my family. Let me tell you, it was not an easy task and it has/will take(n) a lot of adjusting on my part; nevertheless, this opportunity has already proved to be a life altering adventure. Constantly witnessing structures of such grandeur proves to continually reinforce my sense of utter insignificance. As an eighteen year old holding a piece of pottery which spanned centuries is unfathomable. There is a certain awe which transpires at four in the morning every day. It is a time when the sun continues to sleep, an in between for animal life, a time when grogginess morphs into excitement, and the bus drive over to Omrit slowly feels more like an endless roller-coaster. Around seven we are able to witness one of the most fantasizing images to date– the sunrise at our site. Almost unconsciously we all pause our work in mesmerization of the beauty. After traveling to Banias on Sunday I find it easy to imagine believing in mythical creatures, in a place such as Israel it would be hard not to; between the graceful landscape and oppressive mountains, there is a certain demand for respect. On another hand, I have learned a vast amount thus far– marking elevation levels, determining various artifacts, creating a balk, sifting debris, and dating a myriad of material. Though I continue to learn something new everyday, I pride myself on the information which I currently possess and I have begun to look forward for my alarm to ring each morning.

 

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Carthage College students chronicle their experiences during the 2015 excavation in Omrit, Israel. Professor Daniel Schowalter leads a group there over each summer break.