Weeks 11 & 12: Jerusalem!

Finally – a chance to sit down and catch everyone up on what we have been doing! Two of our three weeks in Jerusalem have passed and we are moving to Tsefat on Thursday. Our schedule for the past two weeks has been packed with work, tours, events, and personal enjoyment of the Jerusalem scene.

Here is the run-down of everything we have been doing – it is quite an impressive list!

Week 1:

1)      Tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab at the Israel Musuem

2)      Work at the IAA glass, ceramic, and metal conservation labs at Har Hotsvim (Tues)

3)      Tour of the Kotel Tunnels

4)      Tour of the Old City and Jerusalem Archaeological Park with Ya’akov Billig

5)      Excavation at the City of David – Givati Area (Wed-Thurs)

Week 2:

1)      Work in the IAA mosaic conservation labs at the Rockefeller Museum (Sun-Mon)

2)      Tour of the Rockefeller Museum with the head curator

3)      Tour of the Rockefeller archives

4)      Meeting with Shuka Dorfmann, Chief Director of the IAA

5)      Field work at the Tomb of David (Tues-Thurs)

6)      Tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (with Shachar Puni, head conservation architect of Old City Jerusalem for the IAA)

7)      Tour of the Old City walls (with Avi Mashiach, conservation architect with the IAA)

Since there is so much to talk about, I will only talk about a few of my own personal highlights. As a person who is working on her 3rd degree in Bible and has a strong interest in archaeology, I’ve had a blast these past two weeks.

Our Jerusalem adventure kicked off with a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls conservation lab, where we saw the oldest extant copy of the 10 Commandments, Psalm 48, some phylacteries, part of the Genesis Apocryphon, and miscellaneous fragments that have yet to be conserved. We also saw the camera and lab where the digitization of the scrolls is taking place. When Google partnered with the Israel Museum in 2010 to digitize the Dead Sea Scrolls and make them available to the public, the two purchased one of the few MegaVision cameras in existence ( Some of the scrolls, such as the Great Isaiah Scroll and the Community Rule, are available online already (

I also thoroughly enjoyed our tours with Ya’akov Billing and Shachar Puni. The two tours were complimentary, but neither one of them knew it in the beginning. During the former tour, Ya’akov took us around the Old City, explained the original layout, and how the city has changed over time. This included a trip to the Wohl Museum, where the foundations of upper-class homes dating to the Roman period have been exposed and conserved. The highlight of this tour was the time we spent at the southern wall of the temple complex. From the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, one can see the base of the Herodian temple mount, the pavement that was briefly used in 2nd Temple times, and the stones that were pushed off the top of the complex when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 C.E.

The tour with Shachar took what we learned from Ya’akov about the original plan of the Old City and focused on the original plan of the Holy Sepulchre complex. What is now the Church of the Holy Sepulchre used to be much larger. When it was originally built for Helen and her famous son Constantine in the Byzantine Period (2-6th ct. CE), the church included the area where the church now stands, a basilica, and an atrium. Today, the only way to see what is left of the original elements is to enter the Russian Church a few doors east and mentally connect the dots. I cannot describe it well here, but it was fascinating to watch Shachar read the architectural cues that reveal the structure of the original complex. I even went back today to see what else I could see, now that I know more about the original floor-plan and am learning to see the different periods of building construction here in Israel. Before Saving the Stones, there is no way I would be able to do that, so I was pleasantly surprised. J

Of course we also enjoyed all of the practical things we learned over the past two weeks (and will learn next week). We worked with glass, ceramics, metals, mosaics, pointing, grouting, and came up with our own mortar recipes. We even excavated so that we understand where the items we conserve come from – tons and tons of dirt. A few of us have archaeological backgrounds, myself included, while it was a new experience for others. It was fun to get to know other young people in the area and chat with folks outside of our group. By now, we are all pros at introducing ourselves and talking about the program. Sometimes it feels like reciting a monologue or a scientific equation (my name is X + I am from Y + my background is in Z + I am here because of A…) but that is the nature of the beast. The great news is that we introduce ourselves so often because we are meeting so many important and interesting people, like the Chief Director of the IAA, Shuka Dorfmann, whom we met this week.

Well, it is time to gear up for the upcoming week – 2 days at the Kotel Tunnels, 2 days at Area G of the City of David, then off to Tsefat on Thursday! Don’t forget to check out more photos of our adventures on facebook:


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