By: Lydia Buckner
This summer, I returned to Israel to work with Dr. Hardin at Khirbet Summeily. It was a wonderful season! The weather was unusually cool at the site and one day it even rained…okay, it really misted; but we’ll take what we can get at this point! We had a solid dig crew too, and that always makes for smooth sailing. This year marked my third dig season at Summeily. I arrived just as excited as I was my first season and with preconceived expectations based on my past experiences. Pottery, rocks, dirt, iced coffee, more pottery- those expectations were well met. One thing about this year was different, and I had no clue just how much more it would enrich my experience in the Middle East. That thing was the Fulbright Hays program. When I arrived in Israel in late May to continue my work with Dr. Hardin in Ruhama, things were normal for the first few weeks. We prepared the site, gathered supplies, and awaited the arrival of the rest of the team. Once they arrived, we began excavations.
On June 10th a group of educators and a few college students from Starkville arrived as part of the Fulbright Hays International Grant program. This program entailed a cultural and historical tour of Israel and Jordan that lasted 5 weeks. I do not exaggerate when I say that this was the trip of a lifetime. I could write a book on the events that took place this summer and maybe one day I will, but for now I’ll stick to the high points. The rest of the Fulbright crew arrived as strangers, but by the end of our trip we were all family. Together we broke the Ramadan fast in the Old City of Jerusalem with a shop owner friend. We went for a night swim in the Sea of Galilee, and again in the Dead Sea. At that point we thought we’d never seen more beautiful stars, but little did we know… We visited Masada and Herodian; Jericho and Megiddo; Bethlehem, Capernaum, Qumran and so many more sites across Israel all in the span of 14 days. Just when we thought we had reached our sensory capacity, we crossed into Jordan.
We camped with Bedouins in Wadi Rum where we saw a star filled sky more spectacular than anything I have ever seen in my entire life. Only one word comes to mind when I think of that sky..splendor, pure raw splendor. We hiked for 3 days in Petra through ancient sandstone buildings that made you long for a revival of their beautiful architecture. (I also may or may not have ridden a camel in front of the Petra treasury).
I even had the chance to spend the afternoon with a Bedouin family in Dana drinking tea under their goat hair tent, watching them bake bread, and listening to their stories of marriage traditions and local springs with miraculous healing powers. We spent the remainder of our trip at ACOR in Amman with Dr. McClellan where we visited archaeological sites, museums, local businesses, and even took a Jordanian cooking class. As a student of archaeology, I enjoyed this opportunity to view Israel and Jordan from both a cultural anthropological and archaeological perspective; as well as the opportunity for one on one interaction with so many interesting people. It’s safe to say that I will still be processing this summer adventures for years to come…