Archaeological Digs to Enhance Your Israel Trip
If you have a passion for discovering the past, an archaeological dig in Israel is an experience you’ll never forget. Considering the millennia of history, there are many undiscovered wonders beneath the ground. There are many archaeological digs conducted year round in Israel and many ways to find ones that are open to visitors. Both the Biblical Archaeological Society and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs compile a list of current digs.
Here are some options to consider on your visit. Note that some digs require days or weeks of commitment.
Dig For a Day
Archaeological Seminars Ltd., offers this program for visitors to go into their current excavation site to participate in an archeological dig. Participants are invited to dig, sift through rubble, examine pottery and tour the National Park of Beit Guvrin during their archaeological dig. There are a few stops during the day and a fair amount of walking and exploring caves so don’t forget your comfy clothes and shows. This is a not far from Jerusalem, many past participants claim that it is highly recommended and worth a visit to anyone living in or visiting Israel. This dig is suitable for visitors of all ages; older children would find it rewarding and fun, while younger children would be entertained for the whole day.
Temple Mount Sifting ProjectThis archaeological project started in 2005 in order to recover artifacts from topsoil removed from the Temple Mount which is one of the most sacred sites for Judaism. It is also the third holiest mosque in Islam and holds importance to Christianity. Despite the amount of history and importance, no one thoroughly conducted archaeological digs there. The site exists to use wet sift techniques to discover as many artifacts as possible with the support of Bar Ilan University. These 2-hour sessions include hands-on exploration, as well as participation in talks with archaeologists at the site. Past volunteers say it is an incredibly rewarding and informational experience where two hours was not enough for them. Although there is no age limit, participants must be at least 3 feet tall. They also advise wearing comfortable work clothes and shoes because the work is done outside with water and mud. During the summer, one would work under shelter and inside a greenhouse during the rainy season. Do not let bad weather deter you from this wonderful learning opportunity!
Shikhin/AsochisUnder the direction of Professor James Riley Strange, of Samford University, this month-long dig will take place near Sepphoris from May 23 to June 23. This year, the team will work in the synagogue discovered by last year’s team with a focus on the pottery production area and the domestic quarter. There is a two-week commitment for this dig.
Dig Mount Zion
This excavation takes place from June 14 until July 11 within sight of Jerusalem’s Old City. Shimon Gibson and James Tabor lead the digs to uncover Roman-era homes that were preserved under fill dirt when the area was artificially lifted. They prefer volunteers who can make a two-week commitment to the dig.
Dr. Michael Eisenberg, of the University of Haifa, will lead an excavation of a Roman-era basilica and of the Roman-Byzantine southern bathhouse, as efforts to preserve all exposed sites continue. Entering its 15 th season, the excavation at Hippos is now accepting applications. The entire season goes from June 29 to July 24. Volunteers are asked to participate in one session of the dig which lasts for two weeks; the minimum stay is five days. However, preference would be given to volunteers who can commit the full season. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age in order to participate.
Professor Rami Arav of University of Nebraska at Omaha will lead this excavation of Bethsaida, located in the north Sea of Galilee. There are 3 sessions for this season, which ranges from May 18 to July 5. Volunteer registration is now live and open to volunteers of all ages and physical level, as there are many different kinds of positions available. The organization requires a minimum of one week stay.
Archaeological digs are fun and satisfying but not for those weak of heart or physical condition as many of these digs take place out in the open for long hours under Israel’s summer sun. Should you decide to participate in one, please register immediately as spaces fill up quickly. These digs highly recommend light clothing that is loosely fitting and easily laundered, long pants that cover the shoes, and durable working shoes.
Volunteer work typically involves digging and sifting dirt, washing, sorting, and cataloging artifacts. The prices typically include accommodation, meals, and transportation to the site (not airfare). Participants typically travel and relax on the weekends. However, each dig has different rules and policies so research the one that fits you and your travel plans the best. Many of these excavations take place annually, and have been going on for many years, so if you missed the registration deadline or if a session is full, there is always next year.
Gil Tours is a great place to start when you’re planning a trip to Israel. We offer a range of services and can help you plan the perfect family vacation around your archaeological interests. Contact us today to learn more.