As my 63rd birthday approached, I decided it was time to cross off the top two items on my bucket list. My three children had all been to Israel, but I had yet to make the trip. I was an archaeology minor in college, but I had yet to go on a dig. I wanted more than the typical tourist stop to stick a spade in the ground—I was hoping to have an authentic archaeological experience. My husband had no interest in this type of adventure, so I would be making this journey alone. With all this in mind, I searched for a safe way to embark on my trip of a lifetime. Happily I found that Gil Travel’s VFI+ Archaeology offered the perfect solution. It proved to everything I wanted, plus much, much more!
Dig day #1: We were on the bus by 6:30 am and arrived at the Givati Parking Lot excavation as the sun was coming up. After a short lecture, we each got our pickaxe, brush, and pan and went to work. I soon found the edge of a large urn and loads of pottery shards (a few of my pieces fit together!). My other big find was a tiny olive pit, which excited Marion (from France), our site supervisor. Two hours later we took a break to eat our ample boxed breakfast; then Prof. Gadot and Chananya took us on an excellent tour of the remarkable City of David. A few more hours of digging and lunch on site with the dig team were followed by a field class with Nitsan Shalom, a PhD candidate, who shared her theories on whether Jerusalem was fully burned in 586/587 B.C. The digging day starts early and ends around 2:30-3 pm to accommodate the heat. We dig in the shade under suspended tarps, hydrate often, and cross the tiny street to the City of David for coffee and restrooms whenever we need them. Our big orange coach bus is too wide for the narrow street that runs between Givati and the City of David entrance, so at the end of the day we meet it at the top of the hill, next to an Old City wall. As I walk up the hill, I am covered in Roman-era dust, exhausted, and ecstatic. Digging! A tour with Prof. Gadot! A field class! Day One has already exceeded all my expectations. The time and attention that we are receiving from the Tel Aviv University team is extraordinary.
The VFI+ archaeological trip included more digging days at Givati, more exceptional tours (above and below ground) with Chananya, Prof. Gadot and other archaeological “rock stars,” and more interesting field classes. When Israel shut down for Election Day, I was disappointed to lose a digging day at Givati, until we learned that Prof. Gadot was taking us to Ramat Rachel (where he previously dug for many years) for a field class! Later in the week, back on site, he made time to give us a class on sorting pottery shards. On our last day, Prof. Gadot and the dig team took our group to a favorite "Hummuseria" (Hummus Restaurant) for a farewell lunch. In a few short days, we had become part of the team. It is impossible to thank Tel Aviv University, VFI, and Gil Travel for going so far above and beyond to add value to this experience.
I will never forget how the Givati excavation glowed at sunrise, greeting us each morning, and the thrill of working side by side with an Israeli and international archaeological team. Now I read in National Geographic about Prof. Gadot, Dr. Uziel, and new finds at the City of David, and hope I will see them all again soon. Next year in Jerusalem…