Well, I survived, made it home, passed through the many levels of Israeli security (which is understandable, considering current conflicts in Gaza and with Egypt, and the problems in Syria right now).
What did I learn? I did learn about archaeology and the process of the work, which was certainly expected. But I also learned about myself. I learned that I struggle when I have no authority. Not because I need to have authority itself, but because I feel powerless to correct problems. Toward the end I began to discover ways to make things happen, usually not to my full satisfaction, but at least enough to resolve basic problems. Having been in business management for so long, this was a new experience, and something I had not expected.
I also learned, first hand, what the Holy Land looks like, and even shared a little piece of the life of the people from the past. There were several large cisterns we were able to walk down into. Doing so was a long walk down stairs and then a long walk back up stairs. Just making the trek was exhausting, and I could imagine having to do that every day for water. A few of us had a conversation during the trip about how the wealthy would have had servants to do this for them, but others would not. The very contrast between the wealthy and poor is so much more emphasized by this. Unlike today, where poor simply means having less and perhaps not access to certain things, back then, however, poor meant all this, plus the added work necessary just to get the basic needs of survival, like water. This experience puts the words of the prophets and Jesus into a greater context.
I was surprised, also, that a group brought together for such a strong mutual interest, could be so vehemently filled with conflict. Our group of people was more fraught with trouble than stereotypical high school. We had clicks (the “old crew” and the “cool kids” and the “outsiders” almost divided by housing location, yet some people were not “in” with the groups where they stayed), we had drama, back stabbing and treachery, cheating, theft, and “inappropriate behavior.” I cannot speak to whether this was unique to our dig, or normal, but it led to a great deal of unpleasantness for many people. And while I feel I made many friends, by the end, I was mostly avoiding any group gatherings, preferring to deal with people one on one, or in small groups.
All in all, I had a great experience. I have yet to check my weight, but I think I lost a lot, and gained a good tan. It was a lot of work, and since archaeology is not my field, I doubt I will ever do this again. But it something I would recommend to anyone who can do the work to do at least once. I am certainly excited enough to return someday to Israel.