After one full week of excavations, the weekend was finally upon us. No getting up at four in the morning, no instant coffee and no scorpions for two whole days! The event was promptly celebrated in style by watching the sun set on the lakeshore with good company, some nice music and a cold drink. As a flock of snow white herons streaked low over the cobalt blue water, a great feeling of peace came over me: life was good and we were living it. As it was Midsummer Night, the Finns took us on a traditional celebration of Juhannus, where we got a taste of the beautiful melancholy that is the Finnish soul…with perhaps a bit of cynical humor thrown is, as illustrated perfectly by the game ‘bus stop’. The game is played in a circle and the main objective is to not look someone directly in the eye, or else you freak out and are out. Naturally, we had a great time, but since Finnish people are usually too cynical to really enjoy themselves, you could argue that we just had a time.
|She`s aged beatifully...|
Come Saturday we went on an extensive excursion to Sepphoris and Caesarea Maritima. The ruins in Tzippori National park contain one of the most exquisite mosaics in the Levant: a roman portrait of a woman dubbed ‘The Mona Lisa of the Galilee’. It also contains a street discovered by one of our directors, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zangenberg. We made sure to pay homage to this significant feature by taking a group photo here.
|On the Jürgenstrasse|
After lunch, we traveled to Caesarea Maritima, an administrative center commissioned by Herod THE Great. Walking through the gate towards the remains of his palace and the hippodrome, it`s easy to see how he got the name: the man sure had an eye for location. We enjoyed a walk along his beachfront party complex with the smell of silt in our nose. After a thorough tour of the site, we went to a nearby beach for a swim in the Mediterranean. There is something captivating about this body of water: it is a thing mysterious and alluring beauty, yet also comforting and playful. She is the desirable mistress of every man, woman and child that lays eyes upon her and falls under her spell. She has been the lifeblood of countless societies that laid themselves to rest beside her and she still invigorates the people that live their lives by her side. She will always have a special place in my heart. At the end of the day, we were forced to say goodbye and return to the no less beautiful Sea of Galilee.
|I`d build here too|
But we could do one better. After dinner, a small group of us drove over to the Tabgha Pilgerhaus where that heavenly treasure of the Holy Land awaited us: a large glass of Taybeh. By now, readers will be aware of its near-sacred status for us digging folk. Watching the moon tuck the lake in with a blanket of silver while the hills were dancing with what seem to be giant candles, we had both hilarious jokes and wonderful conversations. Truly we lived the weekend for what it was under the protective blue and silver Eye of God.
Enchanting as this all may sound, it`s not all fun and games. One of the volunteers cracked a tooth by accident on Friday, in the severe catastrophe of biting down too hard on a cherry stone. Fortunately a staff member was able to take him to the dentist, who stabilized the situation quickly and professionally.
Beyond that, some people are also suffering from cold symptoms, courtesy of the Israeli love for excessive air-conditioning. Something as simple as a cherry stone or sitting in the foyer can take you out of the game, and those are by far the least of the things that can be unfavorable to your health: cisterns off the trodden path, our dear arachnid friends from the site, and someone recently spotting a snake on a nearby beach are a constant reminder of the fact that we have to be careful and look after both ourselves and each other.
All in all this has been a weekend to mill over, with so many experiences to take away from. It has taught me that good times are not to be taken for granted and bad experiences should not be set aside lightly or forgotten. Remember your mistakes and hardships so you can learn from them and move forward as a stronger person. But also do not forget that life is about the good times and memories you create with the people who are meaningful to you. Look after yourself, expand your knowledge and understanding of the world around you, do something crazy and have a metric ton of fun while you do it. Because sometimes in life, you`ve just gotta drink the Taybeh.
|Sometimes, you`ve just gotta..|
Signing off for now,
The Lost Dutchman