Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hebrew Lessons and A Big Day Tomorrow

Although I’m much better, I'm a bit congested from the really bad cold I had. It's been raining a lot, which means staying in doors a lot with a pile of books for company, but I'm also learning a lot. I just started a Hebrew class this week and my brain is still sweating from it, but I can write the script and my name in Hebrew or Ivrit. The class is really diverse including 3 Palistinians, a Dutch woman, a Finish woman, 5 Americans, as well as people from Japan, Korea, Poland, and New Zealand. It will be an interesting experience.
I miss my dog, Asta, and apparently she really misses me too. Brian says that she always stops at my room and he put her on the phone to hear me and she got really excited when she heard my voice. She's a little smarty. My other 2 WFT's never could recognize me over the phone and they to care if I was gone. One of them, Brigand, would actually forget who I was in about the space of a week!
Tomorrow I’m giving a public lecture (called a workshop), which is based on my research here and 47 people have rsvp’d to attend. This is the biggest attendance at an Albright lecture so far this year. The photo shows me at a special exhibit on the Philistines at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. This Photo was taken at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv at the Exhibit on Philistine Cult Stands when we went to Tel Qasile on Feb. 14.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Colorful Ramallah

I couldn't resist posting this picture of a Jiddi (Grandad) selling spices and basketry on a street corner. Naturally, I didn't buy any of his spices or basketry as Australian customs would have a field day with me. Most Palestinians dress much like the rest of us, but I am always drawn to the the older folks with such great character in their faces.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Checking In at Ramallah

Today I went to Ramallah in the West Bank. The separation wall is just 10 minutes from east Jerusalem, but it's another 30 mins to the city center after crossing the checkpoint. So, it's very close. This photo is from the visit to Samaria farther to the north, but it gives an idea of what the separation wall looks like.

It was a warm, pleasant day - 68F/20C, more like winter in Los Angeles, then the cold, grey Melbourne winter. I met with Adel Yahya, who directs the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange. PACE is an NGO, which creates tourist guides, protects some archaeological sites in the West Bank, and works to revive local crafts and sell the products of local craftsmen. He showed me around the area including the remains of a church said to be on the site where Jesus preached and the place where Arafat is buried. Then, we had lunch at his brother's restaurant.

Afterward, I spent some time on my own walking around downtown Ramallah - it's a crowded and lively city wtih an amazing array of all kinds of stuff for sale. Strangely enough you can buy an number of American foods here that aren't available in Australia.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Antiquities Authority and Monastery

Today I went with Matt, a student from my alma mater of UCLA, to visit the storerooms of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. These are the most well-organized archaeology storerooms I've seen with great attention given to every category of artifact such as neatly categorized drawers of Islamic glass bracelets and Turkish pipes as well as tidy shelves of early ossuaries (bone boxes) and Canaanite amphorae. Most of the collections are also entered into a computer data base.

The antiquities authority is located near the site of Beit Shemesh, which is in turn, near the convent and monastery of Beit Gemial. The monastery was founded by Don Bosco and both the convent and monastery sell handicrafts including wine, olive oil, honey, and pottery. The sisters actually built their own chapel including the woodwork and masonry, and they make their own pottery and honey (pictured here), which they are very proud of. Anna Vincennes (left) who works on Islamic pottery was our guide.

Valentines Day: I Love the Philistines

Our trip to Megiddo, originally scheduled for today, was post-poned yesterday because of weather, but it was actually fairly mild and sunny. We ended up doing something else instead. There is an exhibit of decorated Philistine cult stands in Tel Aviv that is ending Saturday, so we went to see that instead along with the Philistine Temple at Tel Qasile, which is on the grounds of the Eretz Israel Museum. The stands were interesting: they were broken and deposited in a votive pit and resembled architectural models. Many of them were decorated with trees, women, and bulls - common themes here, in Mesopotamia, and in the Aegean. I gave a brief presentation to the group on Tel Qasile (pictured here) because it has similarities to Canaanite, Minoan, and Mycenaean shrines, which makes it important to my research. You can see that it includes a rectangular hall with 2 worked column bases and also included benches and a platform for the placement of offerings. The temple itself is covered, but associated buildings are uncovered and are eroding away - a problem for architecture everywhere.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Another Kind of Pilgrimage

I felt like crap for much of the last week. I caught the communal Albright cold and it progressed from the sore throat stage into the hacking cough. I got some codine over the counter (gotta love the Middle East!) at the drug store next to the Albright and have been sleeping a lot. I won't take it during the day as I don't want to feel drowsy and I don't like the feeling it gives after prolonged periods. I'm also taking 3000 mg of vitamin C a day spread over 2 doses at the Director's suggestion. It seems to have worked because I'm not feeling perfect, but I am feeling better.
One of the other fellows, Christine - who is a UCLA student, and I went to the American Colony Hotel earlier on Sunday evening for a drink - I hadn't been there since Brian left. I haven't posted for a while as I've been working away on the lecture I'm required to give here on March 1 and now it's finished. The lecture will deal with mechanisms for the transfer of architectural styles and techniques, their significance, and the problems involved in studying these issues.
Have any of you dear readers heard about the riots here? The Israeli's are repairing the ramp that goes up to the Dome of the Rock and doing a little excavating along with it. They claim it was damaged in the snow storm (wouldn't surprise me) and the Muslims claim they are going to damage the mosque, so there were riots to go along with the Friday prayers. We knew something was going on yesterday, but since no one goes out much, they weren't sure what. It's funny to have something going on practically on our doorstep but to have to read about it on the Internet. I knew a bit more than others, because I made a pilgrimmage to the Christian liquor store to get a bottle of Arak to take to Trude's and a bottle of scotch for me - it's even more expensive here than in Australia. This required passing through 3 or 4 pedestrian checkpoints and the road in front of the Damascus Gate of the Old City was blocked to traffic. It's a good thing we visited the Dome of the Rock when we did as it is once again closed to tourists. This building activity by the Israeli's could trigger a 3rd intifada and security in the area has been increased.
I also hosted the first of a monthly happy hour in my apartment - the Albright paid, all I had to do was set it up and host it. That's the kind of party I like - one that someone else pays for. After dinner, I went to Trude's house and another archaeologist, Sharon Zuckerman from Hebrew U was there and we ate, drank, and talked architecture for about 3 hours. Trude is the famous Israeli archaeologist, Trude Dothan.
Last Saturday morning I went on a tour of Ein Karim sponsored by Al Quds University. This is a village in the hills just outside of J'lem - reminiscent of the foothills of the Troodos in Cyprus - with a bunch of churches, including the Church of the Annunciation. We also visited the convent of Notre Dame of Sion - which was a convent founded to teach orphans and has nothing to do with the Da Vinci Code - but they make great mandarin orange marmalade. It was nice to get out and get some fresh air. As alluded to above, a lot of people here have colds here, so I decided to forego the hash.
Now that I have finished my talk, I plan to continue research on my project as well as other things.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Back In Action - Sort Of

Saturday was a nice warm day - the kind of winter day that makes Los Angeles a great place to live. I'm feeling better and went to the Hash in Herzilya, a beach area just north of Tel Aviv. I still have a bit of a cough - which stayed with me nearly till the end of March, so I just walked and afterwards it was so pleasant and warm, we stood around drinking beer after the run ended. The picture here is from the 666 run at Megiddo and shows me running in a field near the site.
On Sunday, I went to a Pilates class and got back into my project. I've been reading a lot about Tel Dor - a big coastal site near Haifa that was inhabited from the Bronze Age through the Classical Period. It's very interesting as its a northern Sea Peoples site, with a tradition that is distinct from the Philistines in the south.
Today we went to see the Islamic Museum in J'lem that had some nice pottery, but the person who led us around lectured a bit beneath us. Tomorrow I'm going to Ramallah and on Weds I'm staring a Hebrew class.