Archive for July, 2006

Photos and Postscript

July 21, 2006

After I returned to San Francisco a full scale war has begun. Within one week of my return the Tel Dan site closed and everyone was sent home. The site was hit by a rocket but no one was hurt. The Club Hotel in Tiberias where I resided was also hit.

Many people whom I encountered since my return have asked, “Aren’t you happy you got out in time before the war?” Others who know Israel well asked, “Guess you feel you wish you could be back there to help.” Both questions reflect my feelings. Each day I have the unearned privelege of safety and a security which we take for granted. I do not have to think much about it; it is assumed. But I am glued to the news and Internet sites, following the action and analysis, and thinking of my friends, family, and the many Israelis I have just been with who are now in harms way. I wish I could do more.

 In Israel when someone asks how you are, a common response is “Baruch HaShem” (blessed is the Name). Rather than “I am fine” or “Things are okay”, Baruch Hashem is both a prayer and a recognition that life is out of our control. Right now the people of Israel are united in their response to existential threat and no one knows where this war will lead. I, along with many people of good will, wish Israelis and their neighbors peace and the strength and resoluteness to help bring it about. Baruch HaShem.

 You can check out photos with captions from the journey and see some of the places and people mentioned in the blog:

 Photos  

http://www.creatingregionalwealth.com/Saperstein-Gallery/

Reflections on My Journey

July 7, 2006

 

 

This is the first trip I have taken for such a long a time period with no purpose other than to be open to the experiences and allow myself to be affected by people and places I encounter. Americans tend to plan for every contingency and may miss spontaneity; Israelis tend to improvise and may miss the benefits of thoughtful structure. In my journey I became “chetzi chetzi” (half and half). I planned where I would stay and with whom, so I knew where I would be each night and how the different segments of my trip would unfold, but except for the archeological dig, I left many days open for whatever I felt like doing.

 

Most of us visit Israel from a tour bus with guided stops throughout the day. In 1989 and 1993 I went on such very well planned tours. I wanted this journey to be a more intimate encounter with Israel and Israelis. So renting a car, and combining home hospitality, a rental in Tiberias, enrollment in a university archeological dig, tours and self-guided visits was an experiment. I focused the activities on my special interests of nature hikes and archeology with an emphasis on the regions I most wanted to explore: Jerusalem, Hula Valley, Golan and the Negev.

 

I can not overemphasize how much my hosts, who opened their homes and guided me with so much care made my solitary travels a companionship journey:  Mark and Susan Guggenheim and Avi and Ruchie Weiss in Jerusalem, Sherman and Melodie Rosenfeld in Rehovot, Hal Bonette my hiking companion, area group leader and room-mate in Tel Dan, and Avraham Dworsky in Kibbutz Alumim and the Negev excursion.

  

Through my journey I have strengthened my connections to Israel and revisited places with special meaning for me. The gift of extended time helped me to recall my feelings and circumstances during each decade when I have visited Israel since my first trip in 1970. I encourage you to take the time to make your journeys either alone or with loved ones in which new experiences and contemplation are built in to the trip.

 

Israel is like an old friend who has a great heart, mind and soul. Nice to correspond from afar, but it is much better in relationship up close and personal. Living in Israel for a month and having so much contact with Israelis, I came to know the country in a different way than from a tour bus. My experience was as much about people as places, and the many conversations and interactions I had along the way made my journey transformative in ways I will be gleaning for months to come.

 

In 1972 as a volunteer on Kibbutz Bet Oren on Mt. Carmel and assigned to work the garden, I remember taking a rock and etching a Jewish Star onto my wheelbarrow.  My supervisor named Gadi laughed and said, “Jeff, you are a real Galutnik (Diaspora Jew). Well, I guess that still fits. I love Israel, but my values, hopes, dreams, and identity is American. 

 

I look forward to returning to the San Francisco Bay Area where I belong with the people and communities that enrich my life and the activities and work that I enjoy. I suspect that having departed from Israel I will not completely leave her behind; her presence will continue to be with me.

  

If you enjoyed the blog, please pass on the address to others. I will be posting photos of the trip so please check back and if you have comments I would like to hear from you. If you are so inclined, please consider making a donation to any of these organizations.

 

For those interested in the feeding of the poor in Jerusalem:

Lev-Ramot Charity OrganizationP.O. Box 23901Jerusalem, Israel

Zip code: 91239

 

For those interested in ecology, the land, natural resources, the best method is online with many donor choices:

 

The Jewish National Fund

http://www.jnf.org

 

For those interested in Israeli Arab and Jewish relationship:

Arab Scouts Association in Israel

Shfar-Am 20200, PO Box 36-Israel

c/o Ali Ayoub

 

To book a visit with Ali to hear about the program if you go to Israel call 04-9868371 or e mail: aayoub50@gmail.com

 

For those interested in archeology and supporting the dig at Tel Dan

 

The Hebrew Union College—Nelson Glueck School

13 King David St.

Jerusalem Israel

c/o David Ilan

 

Thank you for your interest.

 

Jerusalem: City of David

July 7, 2006
I drove down to the old city (amazingly I actually can maneuver around Jerusalem, like a trained maze mouse, I learned from trial and error) to take a three hour guided tour of the new excavations called City of David. They have uncovered the actual city walls and interior of the Jebusite city King David conquered.  Just last February they uncovered what they believe are the foundation stones of King David’s actual palace. The guide brought a bible and read passages that are described in the site and how much of the bible was written in the confined of King David’s city: David, Soloman, Jeremiah, and others wrote from within a few square miles. He read passages in Hebrew and translated in English stories and located them for us. So where Solomon was crowned king is mentioned in the bible as the springs of Gerhon and we saw the spot.

David Ilan had told us that at Tel Dan there was an inscription found referring to King David. It was the only known written mention of David outside Jerusalem. Seeing the foundation stones of King David’s Palace walls brought the Tel Dan inscription alive for me. They predate Hadrians’s Western Wall by almost a thousand years.  What has been found in the City of David clarifies our understanding of the Jebusite city before the conquest by David.

 

We saw the way David conquered the city by entering through the tunnel chiseled by Jebusite workers to divert the Gihon spring into a large pool within the city walls. The highlight of the tour is a 40 minute walk in the spring water through the tunnel illuminated only by our flashlights. The 3000 year old chisel etchings are still visible. The tunnel is about 3 feet in width and from 5-8 feet in height. It was completed by two groups of workers chiseling from opposite directions who met in the middle, and an inscription commemorating their meeting has been found and is on display at a museum.

 

The dig at David’s City is ongoing and there are continuing discoveries. It is one of the most exciting archeological finds in Israel. With a 3 D Cinemax introduction, the tour of the excavations, and the flashlight walk through the tunnel, the City of David provides an experience that beats anything Disney has to fire up your imagination.

 

Before leaving for the airport, I toured with my host Avi Weiss views of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus and other overlook points to get visual perspectives of the city. He showed me the view of the City of David where Jerusalem began and one can see its outlines even with all the centuries of construction by different peoples around it.

 

While the layers of ancient structures and civilizations make Jerusalem so special, the intermingling of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods with expansion plans to increase Jewish settlement around the city make Jerusalem one of the most difficult points of contention. Seeing Maale Adumim and the land planned for development with the Arab neighborhoods they will enfold, I cannot imagine how this city could ever be divided into two capitals for two countries. Conflict has been part of Jerusalem’s history since David conquered the city from the Jebusites.  Along with the religious legacy, the conflict for sovereignty will likely go on as part of the city’s distinction.

 

Seeing the views of Jerusalem at dusk, eating my last Israeli meal with my gracious host Avi, I wanted to linger over my last moments in Jerusalem. I now look at the red thread I have worn on my wrist since I received it from a beggar in Jerusalem when I first went to the Western Wall with my cousin Susan, and she tied it on. Fulfilling the tradition, I distributed the money my friends put in my trust to distribute to the beggars in Jerusalem and wore this red thread for good luck on my journey. It has fulfilled its promise. 

 

Jerusalem: Lev Ramot

July 5, 2006

I arrived at the home of my Jerusalem hosts Avi and Ruchie Weiss, native Jerusalemites, who have most of their extended family living nearby (I crashed the birthday party of their 4 year old niece and had a delicious taste of loving mishpoche). Telling the Weisses about my journey,  I recounted the amazing coincidence of meeting the Brigadier General at the Technion who had commanded the tank battalion that stoped the Syrians while I was a volunteer at Gonen. Avi then told me that his brother Israel Weiss was killed in the same battle as a forward commando. He showed me a book in Hebrew that had been compiled by the survivors of Israel Weiss’ unit as a joint recollection of what happened in that battle. Last year they gave copies of the book to all the families who had loved ones in that action. So I have found yet one more personal connection to that terrible battle in the Golan Heights in 1973.Avi treated me to a delightful dinner in the German Colony, the yuppie part of Jerusalem.  We dined Al Fresco at Calfit Restaurant and it felt like a European city with lots of young energy. Avi then took me to meet with Moshe Cutt, the director of Lev Ramot (heart of Ramut).

Lev Ramot is similar to Second Harvest in San Francisco. They collect unused food from restaurants and celebrations and bag it for delivery to needy residents of the Ramot neighborhood. With donations they also buy packaged goods needed by the families. A social worker, assigned by the city, determines what each family needs. Moshe enlists 150 volunteers to collect, box and deliver food weekly to 500 families in Ramot. The deliveries are made anonymously and the packages are left by the door at night. Moshe knocks and asks for the resident by name and then leaves before the door is opened. This is true Tsedakkah (righeous giving) because recipient retains their  dignity and the donor gets no recognition. I went on some of the deliveries with Moshe in his donated refrigerated truck (he has been doing this for fifteen years). He spoke to me in Hebrew and I only understood half of what he said, but since he repeated himself I guess I got most of what he wanted to tell me. The stories of the needy are heartbreaking, but the harnessing of the power of tsedakkahare inspiring. Such as when all the bar mitzvah or wedding guests bag the goods right from the festivities and residents of Ramot get the deliveries on the same night as the party.  

Moshe said he is called “Moshe Tosfut Yom Tov”  (extra holiday), based on a talmudic story which I had heard, but now that I have met Moshe, it has new meaning.

There was a rich man in a town who refused every request to give to charity. The rabbi in frustration said to the rich man that if he did not give when asked, the rabbi would see that when the rich man died he would be buried at the edge of the cemetary. When the rich man passed away the rabbi fulfilled his threat. However, after the funeral he found out from the poor that the rich man had given every week to them in such a way that no one knew, but they were sustained by his beneficence. The rabbi called the whole town together and made a request. When the rabbi died he wanted to be buried next to the rich man at the edge of the cemetary.

When you see Moshe, he does not look that much different than any 50 year old small, stocky Jewish man. However, through his deeds he is a spiritual giant. There are such people everywhere in the world. But seeing Moshe deliver food to the poor with the Jerusalem stone reflected by the moonlight, I felt elevated to a higher plane.  

The Land and Water

July 5, 2006
Photos to follow

If you have lemons make lemonade. If you have desert brackish water and limited fresh water learn to grow sweeter fruits and vegetables by mixing the two. Land in the Jaffa  region is too valuable for large orange groves, so the Jaffa Orange widely distributed in Europe, is now grown primarily in the Negev.   Planful forestation of multiple tree species is reversing the encroachment of the desert, creating habitable space. Riverbed cleanup in a large urban center creates conditions to improve real estate values and attract new residents.

I have volunteered on the Jewish National Fund (JNF or Keren Kayemet in Israel) media marketing committee and they arranged for a private tour of some of the Negev projects. Tanya, a very knowledgeable Kiwi (New Zealander) transplant gave me a tour of the efforts to make the deserts commercially viable for agriculture and to absorb additional population. For more on JNF www.kk.org.il

We saw:

  • the R&D Ramat HaNegev station where they test ways to grow fruit, vegetables and spices with mixtures of brackish and sweet water to optimize yield and profit.
  • Parks designed for safety, fun, ecology  (biological bathrooms no water or chemicals) to provide “green lungs” for the stressed
  • Riverbed restoration in Beersheva so the population can expand in an area previously shunned because of garbage and pollution
  • The Besor reservoirs (among 167 built by JNF) to maximize the use of the limited rainfall in the country

I was aware of the work JNF does, but seeing is understanding at a deeper level. The water and ecology challenge is as great as the security issues that dominate the news.  Water is optimally recycled, captured, diverted, and utilized. An extended draught or diversion of the rivers from Lebanon or Syria (which has been attempted) could be devastating. The ingenuity to make Israel a more livable, green place is evident in the work by JNF and other organizations. The future challenge of movng people to settlements in the Negev, expansion of Beersheva, and continuous improvement of agricultural methods by research and technology is a great endeavor. I am also impressed by how careful the planning is to fit with the natural cycles  of the plant and wildlife. People have learned from mistakes (such as the draining of the Hula Valley in the1950’s which contaminated the water table) so that ecological balance is preserved as possible.

I bid farewell to Avraham, my host and travel companion, and begin the last leg of my journey where it began: Jerusalem.

Mitzpe Ramon and En Avdat

July 3, 2006

Avraham and I drove from Alumim to Mitzpe Ramon—considered the “Israeli Grand Canyon”. The transition from farmland to desert is gradual but certain. The Negev and Arava deserts has small brush and hard packed sand with bare mountain rock. Mizpe Ramon is a lovely town adjacent to the rim of a spectacular canyon. We stayed in the modest youth hostel  right by the rim and we took the opportunity to observe both sunset and sunrise over the canyon from an observation post a few hundred yards from our room.

 Seeing the  vista from an observation post is an exhilarating experience. Hiking the base of the canyon is something else—it is awe inspiring and a bit scary. The Canyon is called Maktesh Ramon. We drove down a side road and then a half hour on a dirt and stone road to get to the parking lot by an ancient Nabatean way-station on the ancient spice route from Petra to Gaza (remember the temple built into the mountain in the movie Indiana Jones and the Search for the Holy Grail? That temple  was built by the Nabateans). The ruins are  by a wadi and is dated from the 1st century. We then walked down a broad sand and rock path to see several dikes which were lava flows that burst through the mountains. The scary part was the mountains around us were the size of Mt. Tam but with no trees or vegetation. One feels a forbidding wilderness that has not changed since Biblical times. (Photos to follow)

Desert hiking is different than the mountain hiking I am used to. We hike early in the morning or late afternoon since the heat becomes unbearable. Even in those cooler hours walking taxes your strength.  There is a strong dry wind in the afternoon and I imagined scenes from Lawrence of Arabia with men on camels riding through the desert. The imagination does run wild out here.  You get a real appreciation of how precious water is in the desert. All  animal, plant-life and human existence is focused  around use of the scarce water supply.

Our hike on the morning was at En Avdat which is a natural waterfall and series of pools which can be accessed by a trail  up a mountain. There was a narrow stone staircase built into  the mountain unlike any I have seen before. Once atop the mountain you can see the falls, pools,and vegatation contrasting with the deep stone crevices that line the cavern.

(Photos to follow)

We also visited David Ben Gurion’s gravesite and the Bedouin Museum Joe Alon Center funded by the Jewish National Fund. The Bedouin Museum exhibits the simple tools and crafts of the Bedouin, who have populated the Negev and Sinai deserts for centuries. As part of Bedouin custom of  hospitality the museum employee invited us into the Bedouin tent for mint tea and conversation.

One of the advantages of travelling with Israelis is you get to see them interacting with other Israelis in all settings. I have observed that there is very easy conversation between them and strangers can spontaneously speak easily and for extended time. One such conversation happened when we were walking on a desert path in the morning.  We met an Israeli archaeologist exploring encampment foundations in the area we were in. We asked his advice on our hiking options for Ein Avdot and the conversation crossed  several subjects. He asked me where I was from.I replied San Francisco, and he joked I was a long way from home and didn’t I have deserts to explore back there. I said yes, but we do not have Nabotean ruins. He quipped, “But you can go to Las Vegas and see Nevadateans.”

Such is the joy of being with Israels— conversation mixed with humor is always in season.

The War in Gaza

July 3, 2006

Just connecting to the news for the first time in a week, I realize that I am near the war zone of the action in Gaza. The bombardments I hear are not  routine, but a steady ratcheting up of action. There is a massing of Israeli troops in our area and the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Israeli territory has unleashed a very strong response. I need not repeat what is on the news nor editorialize on the events as they unfold. Everyone is following this story carefully here.

 On my way back from the Negev, we stopped at the “Black Arrow”  memorial which commemorates those Israeli soldiers  who died conducting reprisal raids in response to unremitting terrorism from Gaza when it was under Egyptian control from 1953-56 which killed 500 Israelis and wounded over a thousand. So, 53 years ago similar terrorist raids and counter raids were occuring as today on the Israeli border from Gaza.

There is a large Israeli military build-up in this area and I photographed some of the troops and tanks who are staged here (photos will follow). We also went on a hill facing Gaza with a beautiful memorial of wind chimes built by the parents of a 19 year old from a local Kibbutz, who was killed when two army helicopters crashed in the North. From this hill we can see Gaza (photos to follow) and how close (about one mile) it is to Sderot where Gazans fire Qassam rockets into the town. Satellite TV film crews were on the hill taking video of Gaza which I presume then gets globally beamed.

Gaza from a distance looks like any city and it is hard to comprehend how centers of population that are so close to each other can be so different and hostile. I joked to one of the Alumim kibbutzniks that when I return to the Bay Area I will be able to tell the difference between artillary shells and sonic booms should they happen in San Francisco. But the joke does have a larger meaning. We do not worry when our children go to school whether they will be blown up in the school bus. When our kids leave home to university we do not worry they will be in harms way as the Israelis do when their children serve in the army. We do not have barbed wire fences around the perimeter of our communities as they do here in Alumim. We do not have security people checking our bags when we go to stores, malls and restaurants. In many ways every day Israelis are reminded that there are people who are always trying to kill them and their loved ones.

I met a woman about my age when I saw the sun set at Mizpe Ramon. Here we were on an observation deck at the top of a glorious canyon with the  magnificent soft dusk light illuminating the landscape. We both acknowledged our gratitude to witness this majestic glory. Within a minute of conversation she said to me, “I have two children who were already in the army and two more who are now serving…and for what? The problems will never end here.” Even atop Mitzpe Ramon the world is very much on the mind of an Israeli mother. When I remember her it will be hard for me to take our relative security for granted when I return to the Bay Area.

Kibbutz Alumim

July 1, 2006

I bade farewell to Hal and the other volunteers in my work group and began the long drive from the far North to Alumim located 3 miles from Gaza. I gave three 20 something volunteers a lift to Afula and Petah Tikva and so had the pleasure of engaging with young people roughly the same age as I was when I spent a year in Israel. I felt very fatherly as I heard about parents, school plans, and prospective career choices. I also loved the enthusiasm, optimism and curiosity of young people who are engaged with their world and have so much life ahead.

My route to Alumim was over several highways and I became concerned as I approached Gaza, hoping not to make any wrong turns. I arrived at Alumim in time for Shabbat and so have had the experience of a full Shabbat in a religious Kibbutz.

Alumim has 75 families who have succeeded in creating a prosperous middle class life for its members. As I walked the grounds of the Kibbutz (my cousin Avraham is responsible for the landscaping) it felt like Palm Springs: warm weather, lawns, and pretty stucco houses. They have a synagogue, library, spacious dining hall, swimming pool, and many of the amenities we consider part of an affluent lifestyle. Kibbutz living is not for everyone; it is more community than most of us would want in our daily life. Nevertheless, going to synagogue on Friday evening and seeing everyone there, then going to the evening and lunch Shabbat meals, with everyone singing and being together was very special. Israelis know how to serve large groups of people buffet style meals and this is particularly true on Kibbutz.

Having lived on Kibbutzim for over a year in the 1970’s, I feel a very close connection. While I determined it was not for me as a permanent choice then as well as now, I do feel something very uniquely Israeli about the Kibbutz lifestyle and appreciate their vision. Today, most kibbutzniks will admit the ardor of socialist ideology has been eclipsed and kibbutz is now just a different form of a community. But being here I recognized how indelible the impression of kibbutz community was formed  in my consciousness. In many ways  I have been attracted to and attempted to form community bonds in the work, synagogue, friendship circles, and even networking groups I have been affiliated with. So while for many kibbutz is a symbol of Israeli social innovation that has passed its utility and influence for the 21 st century, for me it is still alive in my consciousness and affects my thinking and actions.

So what is it like for Israelis to live near Gaza? I learned there are daily reminders that not all is idyllic at Alumim. There is a cat and mouse game that is going on between the Palestinians and Israeli military in this region. The Palestinians lob Qassam rockets into Sderot very close by to Alumim. The Israelis have their military base between Alumim and Gaza and they lob  shells into empty fields in Gaza. They also fly jets at low altitude to create sonic booms. So every few hours or sometimes every few minutes the windows will shake from sonic booms and barrages can be heard. It is part of life here, and a reminder of the totally different world that exists in Gaza just a few miles away.

 In my conversations with people here no one is optimistic anything will change. No good ending is what I  hear. How unfortunate that these people who have made such a commitment to build a productive life and community should face unending hostility. While Gazans used to be employed on the Kibbutz as well as surrounding towns, they have been replaced by Thai or other foreign workers. So the human misery in Gaza increases and Israeli anxiety and fatalism continues unabated. How sad.

Tel Dan: Day Five: Reflections

July 1, 2006

 

Why did I enroll in an archeological dig that demands such physical stress in the dust and heat? Was I trying to re-live a fantasy to be a 23 year old again? To show myself I still had it, and to indulge in an adventure?

I certainly learned that I do not have the strength and stamina to match those in their teens or twenties who could work longer, harder, and better than I could. Nor did I attend every lecture; I dallied for a week and most would stay a month. I was here to have an experience, most were here as part of their career development or to complete an advanced educational degree.

However, I did experience something on this dig as part of the archeological community that was different than the other segments of my Israel journey. I wanted to have activity in a community that would awake me physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and communally. Tel Dan did that for me. But what affected me the most was not the archeology itself, but the community of fellowship that came together in this endeavor of higher purpose that was larger than the task at hand. We were Jews, Moslems, and Christians who lived, ate, worked, played, and conversed together. We modeled a community in this setting that we will each take back to with us, having been changed in the process.

A Shangri-La it was not. I have been told that by the fourth week when the comity and novelty wears off, the people become exhausted and irritable. This week, the first time laundry was collected for washing it was all mixed together and everyone has to sort through the clothes to select what they think is theirs. One person concerned for getting back his own clothes said. “Well, this may become an excuse for shopping.” Internet was promised on arrival and still has not been set up after a week of threats and pleading…on and on. But as Hal our area group leader said to us, “The first day of the dig is the closest I come to heaven.”

My friend Ali Ayoud, Chairman of the Israeli Arab scouts, told me an Arab folklore story that captures the spirit I felt in this place with these people.

An old man is dying and asks his son to fulfill his last request. He should go to every village and build a home. The son takes the financial inheritance, and starts to build a house in every village, but he begins to run out of money. Discouraged that he cannot fulfill his father’s request he sits forlorn on a bench, when an old man sees him and asks why he is so sad. The son tells the old man the story and is surprised when the old man starts to laugh. “Why are you laughing at me?” asks the son. The old man says he is not mocking him, but says you did not understand your father’s request. When he said to build a home in each village he did not mean to build houses. What he wanted is that you should make a friend in each place you go, so that you are at home in every place you go. 

Perhaps that story best expresses how I feel about what we did at Tel Dan. In addition to our collective effort to reveal some of the history of this land and to increase our individual knowledge, we have made many homes with each other. Perhaps it will have some long-term effect on ourselves, our loved ones, and the communities we return to, having encountered one another.

Tel Dan: Day Four

July 1, 2006

(Photos to Follow)

How do you imagine it would be to work on a dig? Many might think they give you a shovel and bucket, point to a hill, and say good luck. No way. Here one is not only carefully supervised, but there is a great effort to provide on-going instruction throughout the day on the process of archeology: how to survey and measure and what to look for in the striate layers in the ground as we keep digging. It is a great example of project-based learning—you dig, you learn.

Today one of the other groups working on the new ground area discovered what could either be a floor to a habitation or a wall. It is just a layer of stones, but if it is a floor then that will help to date everything found above or below that floor. Each layer of civilization that builds upon the previous can be carbon dated and this helps to put what is found at each level into a context.

So what have we found? What did I accomplish today?

Our group has been going layer by layer with the heaviest digging of the three sites because our area has meters of packed earth and is on multi-levels. We have found pottery shards, bone, and stone formations. We have also uncovered a mud wall to one of the towers adjacent tot the gate. A large green gauze overhang that filters the direct sunlight protects us; nevertheless, the work is extremely dusty (we each have a  paper mask to cover our nose and mouth) and hot.

One of the joys is our fruit break.  Each day at about 11:30 AM different fruit is delivered and the 20 of us share some melons or plums in the shade. Ali takes great pleasure in slicing the melons and handing out a luscious piece to each of us.   Everyone gets one slice, but he gave an extra half to the several guys who are over 50 in our group. He made up a funny reason for each of us to be so privileged, and we all had a good laugh.

This morning a teen strained her ankle falling on some shaky and worn sandbags that form steps going down to the dig from the top of the rampart. I spent most of today filling burlap and plastic sandbags and placed a double layered, wider breadth trail that will be much easier for everyone to maneuver, especially since we all carry equipment up and down the dig. Towards the end of the day I requested the teen to follow me, showed her the path, and asked her to try it out. She skipped up to the top, and I said we would name the path in her honor. She laughed and made my day.

I asked Hal how it looked, and he deadpanned that I have found a new calling. Thanks, but I think I will keep my day job.