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Dig Into History With VFI Plus Archaeology

Posted by Ellen Warren on Sep 10, 2020 11:03:00 AM


Dig into History with VFI Plus Archaeology

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!


shards that are part from our Jewish Heritage


Our introduction to archaeology began at the comfortable and convenient Leonardo Hotel—our new home for the week—with an evening orientation lecture by Professor Yuval Gadot, PhD, of Tel Aviv University and his graduate assistant, Chananya Rothner. Prof. Gadot runs the Givati Parking Lot excavation (part of the comprehensive City of David excavations) with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA). Thanks to VFI and Gil Travel (which made everything about this trip so easy), our group had the rare privilege of joining his dig team at Jerusalem’s largest active archaeological site for a week.


Archaeology digging in Jerusalem in Israel, my pieces fit


EXCERPTS from My Travel Diary: City of David, Jerusalem

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.

Archaeology digging site in Jerusalem, Israel
Dig day #2: Great day on the dig! I found a decorated piece of an oil lamp from the Early Roman period. Chananya said it was an “indicative” find because they can compare it to similar (known) pieces and use the decorative pattern for dating. At 11 am Chananya took us on a spectacular tour of the Herodian (Pilgrimage) Road dig, not yet open to the public (this alone was worth the whole trip), then back at Givati, he explained the excavation finds in “Rooms A, B, and C.” Chananya is a wonderful teacher, enthusiastically sharing his expertise in history and biblical archaeology and answering every question with patience and tremendous generosity of spirit. Back to digging, we found a bone embedded in the wall. Our finds are confirming that the small area where we are digging was likely a site of food preparation. Today’s afternoon field class was a fascinating lecture by IAA archaeologist Dr. Joe Uziel on different theories for dating Iron to Bronze period finds and determining when the walls protecting the Gihon Spring were built. I feel like I’m back in graduate school in the best possible way, grateful and amazed that these leading archaeologists are taking time for us.
Ramat Rachel Touring Jerusalem, Israel

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.

With VFI Plus Archaeology, archaeologists may take you to places not yet open to the public!


Adding to the extraordinary value of this trip were the touring days we had both before and after the dig with Julia Newman, VFI’s brilliant guide, who educated and entertained us with her vast knowledge and insight, taking us to sites both on and off the beaten track and creating unique experiences I would never have had the opportunity to do alone.


Dig through History with the team at Givati Excavation, Sept 2019


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…


If you are intrested in taking apart of VFI please contact Ilana

Topics: Fun stuff, Gil Travel, group travel, guest posting & travel experience, Israel Travel, Jewish Heritage, Senior Travel, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, escorted tours, volunteering