Day 31: Archaelogical Dig at Beit Guvrin
Trip Start May 14, 2008
42Trip End Jun 17, 2008
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We are renting a car from Eldan today and taking this opportunity to see some of the countryside west of Jerusalem before meeting our group at Beit Guvrin at 2 PM. It is important to reserve your space on this dig well in advance and we had signed up via email during our trip planning from the U.S.
At Eldan, we ask for the excess waiver so we don't have to be concerned about possible this and thats upon return.
Off on our drive! At the start, we feel like pros as we recognize the roads we have driven on in the taxis to the Knesset and Yad Vashem. We turn onto a small side road and wind our way towards Ein Kerem. Be careful navigating here, in the blink of an eye you can be through it, which is what happened to us! We keep moving on rather than figuring out how to turn around on the windy, tight road. Our plan is to take some of the smaller roads through the Judean Hills, following the suggestions from Frommers, to get a feel for the physical geography and some of the geographical challenges of getting supplies through to Hadassah Hospital and Jerusalem during the War of Independence. These are rolling hills, deep valleys, winding roads. We imagine defending the convoys and appreciate the difficulty involved. We stop along the way and take a walk along a ridge line with beautiful expansive views. It feels so good to breathe air and be out in nature again! There are great views of the road twisting and turning as it hugs the side of the hills, uncluttered vistas with hills, rocks, and trees. It is quiet except for the few sounds of birds, a light breeze and the occasional passing car on the nearby road. We take a detour to check out some new development homes that we see advertised. This involves driving on a winding road for a while
It is time to find our lunch place, allowing time for us to get lost. We get onto Route 38, where the hills are much lower and we can now see the agricultural area. We have two restaurant suggestions and we are not sure which is the closest. After turning into a moshav and asking for directions from a pretty young girl (Harvey always find pretty young girls) talking on her cell phone, we come to the conclusion that her directions couldn't possibly be correct. So, we turn around and now I see on the map a town that seems to ever so roughly match the name that I wrote down from Hadass at Archaeological Seminars. I had written it down as I had heard her say in on the phone, and that is always an opening for error for me! Anyway, we go to another moshav and ask and they direct us back down the road just a bit. We had seen something like an old home set in a grape field, but the signage was all in Hebrew. This time, Harvey finds the dirt road leading through the grape field, we park and walk in and sure enough it as a restaurant AND is the one recommended by Hadass!
This restaurant is called Hapa'amim, or Bells Restaurant. It is charming, in a country setting with a welcoming, friendly owner and waitress. With their little English and Harvey's growing Hebrew vocabulary we do fine. We are the only patrons in the restaurant so the service is great! None of us can communicate regarding an item on the menu so the owner comes out with a fresh eggplant and says that it is his specialty. Harvey doesn't like eggplant, but I do, so we decide to give it a try for one of our dishes. I am so glad we did, because it is the best eggplant served over tahini that we have ever had!
During lunch, Harvey talks again about when he dies he doesn't want to say "I only wish I had..." We talk about what we want and hope for. We are surrounded by the cultivated grape vines, reminded that with sun, water, fertilizer as well as time, patience and care, they will grow into something special and be ready to harvest. Just as we can do with our own lives. How many times do you put off doing something because you think you will have another opportunity? Usually it is the things that we don't do that cause regret, not the things we do.
If you would like to eat at Hapa'amim, note that all the signs seen from the road are in Hebrew
From Hapa'amim, it is a short ten minute drive to the gas station where we meet the Archaeological Seminars tour for our Dig for a Day program at Beit Guvrin. We arrive a few minutes early, park the car, purchase some drinks from the convenience store and sit down to wait. After a short time a group arrives and greets us. They sit at the next table and surprise one of their members with a birthday cake. They have extra so they offer us some, but we can't eat creamy rich foods. Pity! We are wondering if anyone else is coming. Then they arrive. Most of the people show up with guides and vans.
We walk over to the entrance and the guides decide that we should separate into two groups. The kid's enter here. The adults are marched over to another entrance that is wider and less steep. Most of us have no problem going down. However, one woman refuses to enter because she is concerned about going down a ladder. What a shame to have come all this way, knowing what to expect and then giving in to your fears. Within minutes of trolling, we are uncovering pottery shards! I have been crouching down to do this and just get caught up in the excitement so that I get on my knees, then just sit down in the dirt and dive right in, dirt, dust and all. I just let go. We can't believe it when Harvey uncovers a pottery piece with markings! I uncover a part of a handle. Right here! We are sure they had been planted there the previous night for us to find. We are part of the bucket brigade carrying up the dirt and stones from underground. Above ground, we use another contraption to sift through the dirt to see what we may have missed in the poor light below
We could easily have spent the day at Beit Guvrin, with three hours for the Archaeological Seminar Dig and then a few hours seeing other parts of the park. But, we have a concert at 8 PM in Jerusalem waiting for us. Like old hands, we navigate and drive back to our hotel on Route 1, so much shorter going back on the direct route!
The surrounding area of west Jerusalem, like everywhere else in Israel, is full of small interesting places waiting to be explored. There are plenty of options for several days in this area. For ideas, refer to this web link: http://www.touryoav.org.il which does have English pages. For us, that will have to wait for a return trip to Israel.
Back in Jerusalem, we take a quick shower and walk over to the Tower of David. What a place to be at sunset! And what a beautiful, unbelievable setting for a concert! We listen to two jazz bands, one from Germany and the other from Brazil. The musicians use their instruments to communicate, as in another language. One soloist is surely communicating from his heart. We meet two young ladies at the concert. One is a medical student from Italy who is doing an internship at Hadassah Hospital. The other is from Germany doing an internship in the organization that coordinates all the concerts during the festival. What a way to end the day!
Click here for today's photos!