dinsdag 21 juli 2015

A heart of stone

All things must come to pass: there’s probably none who know the weight of these words better than those working archaeological excavations. However, with our focus so firmly fixed on the far end of history, it is easy to forget that the same law holds true in our own age. All things must come to an end, and so too has this excavation season. This is not simply a sad time because all your friends have left, but because you shared a special experience with them in excavating an ancient synagogue. An excavation is a very unusual kind of project to be a part of and it is sometimes described as being a mix between a summer camp and a prison camp. People volunteer to do hard manual labour and have a grand old time doing it. For some of them it still feels mostly like a summer camp, while others still consider it closer to a prison camp. However, I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t enjoyed being part of the project for one reason or another or made at least one new friend during their stay.

You get attached to a great many things during a season. The beautiful sunrises over the Golan are an obvious one, as is the night view of Tiberias from the lake. But you also get attached to the typical dig humour, the bad jokes, and the “back to work!” calls. Even the sounds of the various accents become comfortably familiar. You get used to the southern drawls from the US, the blends of soft and sharp from Switzerland and the cooled staccato from Finland.  We may all communicate in English, but this is by no means the ‘unified language’ of the dig. That is made up by the universal, intrinsic understanding we have of what we mean when we speak to one another. It makes us understand phrases such as “it’s that thing up on the thingy” perfectly. To me, it is this kind of thing that makes the excavation is a living entity, composed from the many facets that make the Kinneret Regional Project so unique. From the camp manager that can move mountains through sheer willpower, to the wacky stories shared during breakfast, to songs like The Ballad of Michael Dustpanhands, to smoking hookah on the steps outside the Damascus gate during the free weekend. At the very heart of all these memories stands the synagogue of Horvat Kur. It is the core around which everything revolves. It is our heart of stone. I will miss the walls that we have excavated over the years just as much as all those people who have helped us excavate it.

Yet, there is a shimmer of light on the horizon. We have had a wonderful season with truly amazing finds and we are far from done. We came from our homes spread across the globe to our home on the shore of Lake Kinneret. Now, we are all ready to go home and return to the normal world, where our friends and family await. Even though we will be all at peace again and able to rest our weary bodies, we know that one day perhaps this home of ours on the shore of the lake will call to us once more. It will ask us to come home to it and explore the history of Horvat Kur even further. Ultimately this is the greatest thing about being at home everywhere: in the end you are always homeward bound.

Dear fellow people of Horvat Kur. It has once again been a tremendous honour and a great pleasure to spend these weeks together with you. Thank you for all the laughs and the good times spent at the site, the breakfast tent, the lab, the lakeshore and on the stairs. Know that with each of you leaving to go back home, chips of my heart have fallen off to make room for you all inside it. For some of you, I’ve even began expanding the accommodations. May you all find beautiful lamp fragments on the road of life and I hope that one day our paths will cross again. When we do, you should lose track of your timing and have a drink beside me. I’ll be buying.

Signing off

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