Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 35: All Over Town

We awoke early, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the Israel Museum yesterday morning.  The Israel Museum houses an expansive collection of exhibits spanning from ancient artifacts to modern art.  We spent all of our time in the archaeological section (about three hours) and just covered half of it.  Some of the more exciting artifacts in the museum are the Tel Dan inscription (an Iron Age citation of "the House of David"), an early cuneiform codex from the Bronze Age at Hazor, and the Shrine of the Book--the permanent exhibit for a large collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 We took a short break around 12:30 p.m. in order to touch base with our friend Shua, who offered us to come by the museum and take us around the city for a bit.  We were on archaeology overload and ready for a bit of a break (and also excited to see our friend of course).

We met up with Shua in the museum who then led us to the Israel Antiquity Authority offices at the back of the complex.  She needed to pass along a few messages to people before leaving, but this side trip turned into the most exciting adventure of the day.  Once inside, Shua was a bit of a celebrity.  Her picture, along with Jodi's and David Amit's (another IAA archaeologist) had appeared the day before in all the major Israel newspapers because of the press release regarding our season at Huqoq.  We went around meeting archaeologists and listening to stories of past and present digs. 

When we arrived at the numismatist (coin) office, we received a special treat.  We were taken into the room that housed over 800,000 coins, spanning from the earliest to latest specimens.  We stood in awe as tray after tray of coins passed before our eyes.  The IAA numismatists gave us a mini-lecture about many of the coins, even allowing us to hold some of them.  It was an incredible and generous gesture, and it is one that we appreciated immensely.

With our adventures in the IAA Israel Museum offices concluded, we headed to a publication store to pick up a few books, and then headed to Ein Karem, the outskirts of Jerusalem where Shua grew up.  It is also the pilgrimage site known as the birthplace of John the Baptist.  We walked around town, ran a few errands, and finally sat down to lunch.

We left Ein Karem to return to the Old City for a quick nap.  We then went out to hear a lecture with Shua a few miles away concerning the politics of excavating Jerusalem in the past and present.  The lectures were in Hebrew, but we wore headsets with a translator doing her best to keep pace with the speakers.  On our way to the lecture, we stopped by the Armenian Hospice in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to see where Shua had spent time excavating the past couple of years.

It was an adventurous and exciting day.