Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 4: Exploring the Galilee

"Bros at Bet She'an" (as James ,one of the other guys,  titled it)
Our weekly day off from the dig proved as tiring as any day on the dig, but it also proved just as rewarding.  Today. we first visited the ancient city of Bet She'an, which was a member of the Greco-Roman league of cities known as the Decapolis.  The Decapolis, as it name suggests. was a league of ten cities that boasted fierce ties to Greco-Roman (or Hellenistic) ideals.  Bet She'an was the cities Hebrew name.  It's Greco-Roman name was Scythopolis, meaning "City of the Scythians."  This city sits at the crossroads of two main thoroughfares of ancient Israel.  We explored the ancient city and eventually climbed the summit of the large "tel" that sits at the middle of the ancient city.  The "tel," or mound, exists due to a fortification system implemented during the Bronze Age ("patriarch era").  The fortification boasted large sloping walls that successive civilizations then built within.  Over time, these layers of civilizations piled up within the original Bronze Age fortification system, creating a large mound.  Some key highlights of this visit were the bath house with triclinium and the public latrine (luckily no longer in operation).  A whole host of stories exist with the latrine, but the one fact I will share is that ancient Romans would often wipe with a public sponge attached to a stick.  I'll let your imagination fill in any unanswered quandries.

Our next trip was to a 6th century CE Galilean synagogue known as Bet Alpha.  I will write more about this later because we will be visiting more Galilean syangogues in the upcoming weeks.  It was very interesting!

Our final trip was to a series of three hot-springs (known as "sachna"--at least I believe).  We spent two and a half lounging around, swimming from spring to spring.  It was relaxing and wonderful.  We returned from our trip and headed to dinner, which turned into an interesting experience.  We started with salad and soup, and after 30 minutes, we thought that this was all of which dinner would consist.  We left the kibbutz dining hall only to have the chef follow us out, yelling that we had only had the beginning of the meal.  We returned to french fries, baked fish, and pasta.  All of which was delicious.  We were also gifted with Shabbat wine, which most people detested.  It was extremely sweet, almost like sangria.  I would compare it to communion wine.  I found it delicious.  Now it is pushing 9 p.m., and I better turn in for the night for 4:30 a.m. will come all too soon.  Thanks for reading!