Volunteer Experience: Digging at Bethsaida and Tiberias
My husband Shai and I are retired kibbutzniks in Israel, members of Kibbutz Ginosar where the Bethsaida group has its "home" in Israel. One day, as all the dirt-covered archaeologists were eating lunch in our dining room, we struck up a conversation about the dig and agreed to come visit the next day. To beat the heat, at 6:00 am we were on our bikes to take the 45 minute or so ride to Bethsaida where we were greeted as honored guests....full tour of the site and as an answer to our tentative question about digging: "Of course we take volunteers who aren't archaeologists". We've been digging at Bethsaida ever since!
This past year we added a new archaeological experience. A dig was starting in Ancient Tiberias at a different period of the year from Bethsaida: every March and November for the next 10 years or so. It's a large and exciting dig of a Roman, Byzantine, Islamic city that was destroyed by the Crusaders in the 11th century. In its lifetime it was an important city for Jews (the Sanhedrin met here and wrote the Palestine Talmud), for Christians (the city existed during the life of Jesus and was a pilgrim center in Byzantine times), and for Muslims after the 7th century. Since the Crusaders built their new Tiberias north of the site it's been left open and ready for us archaeologists to come and dig there. What we're finding is that the digging methods here are very different from in Bethsaida and it's been a fascinating experience digging and learning about the area and history and excavation techniques along the way. It's also a great way to meet and talk to interesting people from around the world.
Just as an added bit for older volunteers like us: During my first day digging at Bethsaida, I was afraid that at my age I would be looking at my watch all the time and wondering "when will it end?". What I discovered, in addition to pottery shards, was that 9 am came and someone shouted "breakfast time" and nobody moved! You just wanted to dig a little bit more...finish a little more. It took 3 calls to get everyone to drop their trowels and buckets. And that's after 2-3 hours of digging steadily!
Kibbutz Ginosar, Israel
Information about the Bethsaida Excavations Project can be obtained at:
Information about the Tiberias excavation can be obtained at: www.digtiberias.org