Playing Ketchup

Alright, far too much has happened for me to recap quickly. The weeks are flying by quicker and quicker and I’m going to be really sad when the program is over.

We’ve learned more about the tools of conservation. We worked with computer programs, learned architectural drawing techniques, and now we’re removing paint layers and cleaning wall paintings in Tel Aviv! Here are photos from two weeks ago:

We arrived to find that part of the aqueduct had been demolished!

Here's the area we all were working on: the siphon

We received our tools! Trowel and masterina!

David performed the official tool receiving ceremony. Benji is  receiving his tools.

Work work work: cleaning, filling, pointing!

Left to right: Khail, Courtney, and Benji show off their work!

 Then we had a tour in Haifa!

Crazy images in the Carmelite station! The Carmelite is the tram that goes up and down the mountain in Haifa.

We had to take the tram up to the top because that's where the walking tour started!

We walked all the way down the mountain.

Khail sat on some street art...

Street art. They have a program where the children in Haifa get together and decorate this one single street. 

This was the coolest thing I've ever seen...

Additionally, I have solidified my final project with Shelley and David! I will be working in Akko’s Christian graveyard! Shelley and David were very receptive to my idea and have already given me some tips for getting things started. I’ve also already contacted the volunteers there and they are very excited to have me help them!

I have also discovered the beauty of Tel Aviv! My previous interactions with the city were never very positive, but this week has turned my opinion completely around. I now know far more about the city so that I can really appreciate it for what it is. The atmosphere is very casual and accepting. Youthful. It’s a youthful city, barely 100 years old. The architecture is a mix of eclectic and international (“Bauhaus”) and the graffiti art is fantastic! I never got a picture of the eggplants…nuts…

This was also a very crazy and hectic workweek. We immediately went to work when we arrived and worked straight through till just about midnight, working, touring, lectures. It was nearly the same the whole week. Our work involved exposing the original stencil paintings of a run-down eclectic-style house from around 1930. This was a very unique experience for us because we were dealing with a part of Israeli national history that is not protected by antiquities law. Under the antiquities law, anything before 1750 is considered an antiquity and protected, everything after is almost completely ignored and destroyed with little appreciation. In the beginning of the 1900s in Israel, massive amounts of Jewish immigrants were settling in Tel Aviv from Europe. The people decided they needed an architectural identity and developed an amalgamation of European architecture and used stenciling to decorate their homes. The stenciling was developed by many individuals and can be seen all over Israel, but they were lost to the International style and more modern forms of architecture, demolished and painted over and forgotten. Until about 20 years when an eccentric man named Shay (our supervisor for the project) discovered the stencils on a lone fallen wall where aging, rain, and weathering revealed the original stenciling. He has since moved furiously to reveal and identify stenciling all over Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, and gain appreciation and protection for this old national domestic art form. The house we worked on in particular ended up being very special because there were many free-hand scenery paintings on the ceilings. Here are some photos from the area I worked on!

House across the street in classic Israeli eclectic style

This is the specific area I worked in!

Really interesting elements.

Benji working hard. We needed face masks and goggles and used scalpels to scrap off the paint layers above the stenciling.

Outside of our building.

Nadine working hard, standing on the scaffolding.

This was extremely dirty work! Everything we own is covered in dust. But it was such a great week, despite being so desperately tired. Next week is Pesach (Passover) Break and I will be traveling with my dear friend, the wickedly intelligent Katy! Yay! I am very much looking forward to it! After Pesach will continue to be very busy and I’m hoping to squeeze in an update before the workweek starts.


For some extra reading about my time in Israel...

Hello readers! The Saving the Stones program has its own blog, where many of us will be making our own posts! Please read up and follow to get another perspective about what I'm doing!



Human Possibilities

I was so tired the past couple nights that I didn’t have the energy to compose anything for the blog! This has been a very long week, filled with too much to even remember. But I will try to touch the best parts of the week.

One thing I have learned this week, though: I need a better camera for this program. Thanks to help of a photography friend, I think I have just the camera in mind! Thanks to a decent tax return, I’ll be purchasing this camera shortly, and then you will all see a dramatic increase in the quality of my photography!

This week we focused on the tools needed for conservation work, particularly working with photography in Photoshop and InDesign. It was a lot of fun trying out these programs. Here’s a result of my first practice:

We also got to take the tour of the Akko Prison and the Hospitaller compound below it. The prison tour was very unique in that from the hundreds of years the prison has been in use (and not its original use, by the way), the tour only focuses on the Zionist or patriotic history as it relates to the modern State of Israel. The tour traversed the life of the Jews imprisoned who resisted the British control with film clips. The movies were very well done, though the complete absence of any of the other history of the compound is gaping. The Ottomans actually built a palace on top of the Crusader ruins and then later turned into a prison and continued as a prison during the British Mandate.

Here are some images of the prison:

The prison with a view of the Crusader building below it. For hundreds of year, no one knew the Crusader building existed because the entire thing was filled in to make the Ottoman fortress, which is what became the prison.

Ottoman architecture

Al-Jezzar mosque and the bay

The Walls

Graffiti from the Jewish prisoners

Graffiti and the al-Jezzar mosque

View from above the prison

The cell where the Baha'ullah, the leader of the Bahai, was held prisoner.

Then we had a tour of the Crusader ruins below with the prominent archaeologist of the Galilee, Eliezer Stern. Taking tours with prominent archaeologists is fun because they get to take you areas where the public isn’t allowed! Here it is, the Hospitaller compound!

The caverns of the Hospitaller compound!

Hallways. Most of this wasn't open to the public, though it will be eventually.

Remains of Hellenistic Akko with the Crusader built above it!

Parts of the tunnels that haven't been excavated!

This hall is being revamped to become a crafts center to teach about Crusader crafts - kind of like an all-year Ren Fair.

They had to inject mortar into the vaulted ceiling to keep it from collapsing!

This will become a restaurant. Fitting, as this was the dining hall for the Hospitaller Knights!

More areas left unexcavated. The whole compound was filled with sand and debris by an Ottoman ruler to create his palace fortress, which later became the prison.

ANCIENT TOILETS! No privacy for knights!

We also got to hike up Tel Akko with Eliezer. There’s not much to see as they’ve covered up the site to protect the remains, but it was enjoyable to hike around.

Wednesday we got to take part in the salvage excavations at Achi’yud junction! I loved getting my hand dirty! The salvage work there is in preparation for a rail line that will go through the area. The excavations have uncovered remains of a Chalcolithic settlement of at least two phases, between 4500-4000 bce. The buildings and findings show that they were probably agricultural herders. They were also coming upon remains from the late Neolithic period, as well! That’s where I got to work! I’ve never worked with anything so old, where there is barely anything to show for occupation, because pottery hadn’t been invented yet. The only thing they’ve found in the area I worked were multiple burn layers, suggesting some kind of cooking area directly upon bedrock. I was supposed to take charcoal samples and collect any stone that looked like it had been worked on! I actually found a tiny obsidian blade fragment! Maybe only 1cm x 1cm! Mostly it was just soil with little charcoal and then I hit bedrock. Barely anyone spoke English, but I was able to get some practice in with my Hebrew. The supervisor, Osman, really enjoyed my work and was excited to learn that I was an archaeologist. He talked to me a lot in Hebrew but I couldn’t respond too well. But I understood a lot of what he said! I think he liked that. Haha.

Sadly, I don’t have images to show.

We also had a chat with Ella, who works for the tourism department, about the many projects she’s working in the Old City and in places all across the region. Her work really inspires me, and I’m seriously thinking of doing a final project that will bring me in to work with her. She encouraged us to get to know all the people who live in the city. So what did we do after chatting with her? Had a chat with our neighbor who owns the storefront in front of our apartment! She’s a very nice woman who sells juice and coffee to make money for her family. We also set up an appointment to go to the hamam, a Turkish bathhouse! We’re going on Monday evening! I am so excited!

Today I also took a hike with James back to the tel and we stumbled upon a Christian graveyard and decided to take a walk around. A man came up to us as we walked about to ask if we were looking for anyone or something in particular. When he found out we were conservation students, he got very excited and started showing us around the graveyard. Many of the graves are from the late Ottoman period and many are even much much older and all are in very poor condition. The man, Salem, told us that since he retired, he’s been coming to the cemetery every day to fix it up because it became a bit of a trash heap. Slowly slowly, he’s been cleaning it up, fixing up the fallen gravestones, and planting gardens. He was very excited to know if we would take any interest in helping him and I have to say, that the entire time he toured the place with us, I was on the verge of tears at how passionate this man was about taking care of the graves of all the people buried there. His motivation has given a lot of the people living in the city the motivation to help and he has received many donations to fix it up. I am seriously considering helping this man and making this my final project.

Not only is this a sacred space that deserves the respect to be cleaned up and preserved, but the research possibilities of studying the burial practices there are phenomenal. Luckily we will be discussing possibilities for our projects this week. I took the man’s contact information and I think I will be in contact with him to at least volunteer my time if not somehow make this my project. We shall see.