Digging [with] This Group

Filled with Treasures

This bucket is filled with treasures, well actually trash. The items in this bucket were dumped in a man-made cave about 2200 years ago. It wasn’t placed here by the Israelites but by the Edomites, a tribe who lived in the Judean desert and who was thought to be “cousins” of the Israelites.  If we look back in the Torah, Abraham had two children: Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s descendants became the Israelites while Esau’s descendants became the Edomites who usually lived across the Jordan river. However, at this time, they lived in an area southwest of Jerusalem called Meresha in the modern Bet Hagovrin national park.

The Edomites lived in homes that they built over hand-carved storage caves. At one point, the descendants of the Maccabees told them that they had to leave, convert, or die. They chose to leave. But before they did, they plundered their own homes and threw the debris into their own storage caves. Thousands of years later, volunteers like us excavated these caves to uncover their detritus. We scraped the dirt floors with our pick-axes, placed the contents into a bucket for rocks, a bucket for treasures, and a bucket for dirt. We then created a bucket brigade and lifted the buckets to the surface where we shifted the dirt to Renee’ reveal any other treasures.  The contents of the bucket is the what we found. It included bones (probably from dinner), charcoal (which shows what they cooked or burnt), and various pottery. Because the room was underground, it was cool and comfortable. We could easily have dug for another few hours, easily. Upon its return, there contents is going to be examined at home, it’s information woven into our understanding of this place and our connection to it.

We then drove back, some of us stopped at the Israel museum and the rest returned to our hotel to pack. We ended the evening, and our trip with a gathering and a dinner. At our gathering, we shared how the trip affected us and and what we plan on bringing home with us.

Personally, this trip was a different experience than I have previously had in Israel. There is something powerful about experiencing Israel with people within our community and family.  There were several parents who came for the joy of seeing Israel through the eyes of their children and spouses. I felt the same way in sharing new Israel experiences with Sandy. She and I both cherish the friendships and relationships that developed while on our trek. We also found great joy in creating new friendships with people we invited to join us from around the country. While most travelers were TAE members, we symbolically extended our circle of friendship and hope those relationships will last as well.

Like the archeological dig this morning, we all ended up with a collection of objects that we hold within our hearts and minds. And while our objects are often memories and experiences, they are no less precious to us. In fact the experiences may be even more important because out of our personal daily experiences, we create our stories of what is meaningful to us and how we fit in. As we experienced Israel and heard about its struggles, its history and its successes, we asked ourselves, what does this mean to me? What does Tel Aviv, hub of Israel as a Start-Up Nation, mean to me? What does the very creation of the state mean to us, or the heroism of protecting the land from those who attracted us in ‘48 and ‘67? How do we relate to those who also have a claim and a history and s life here? What is our place in a city that is Holly to three religions? And there have been so many more questions of personal significance. And the person gently, encouragingly asking those questions was Uri Feinberg who is more than just a guide, he is a teacher in the highest sense of that word.

Or next question and my next post will be “What’s next?” How do we carry these experiences forward and provide people who did not attend this trip to deepen their connection to Israel and the TAE community.