You can’t call it a vacation. But can you call it school? Sunday to Thursday, November 30 to December 4, 70 student and 10 teachers camp out and excavate the first century town of Magdala. The ninth grade class of Haydof high school in Galilee of Israel took up the challenge. Why would 70 students spend 5 days digging in dirt? The goal is to help the students learn the value of hard work and contribute to the preservation of their own history.
The students, predominantly Jewish, also include Muslims and one Arab Christian. Saeed, a Muslim student, shared that he has enjoyed the experience, even though it was hard work. His favorite part of the week, besides the food, was touring the Duc en Altum worship center, a 21st century church that was just dedicated in May 2014 in Magdala. He admired the beauty of the art and architecture.
A group of 4 Jewish girls were surprised with their own discovery when asked what they learnt about themselves this week. One answered, “I learnt that I am stronger than I thought.” Another piped up, “Me too! I didn’t want to dig, but once I got started I saw I could do it.” Despite their initial trepidation, they have a deeper appreciation for those who spend their lives in archaeology and will not take it for granted when they see ancient ruins. Someone had to dig and restore a part of their history that is found among these stone.
Lana, the only Christian in their group, shared that the most exciting part of being in Magdala where a first century synagogue was excavated is to think that Jesus walked and taught there. While she enjoyed the archaeological experience more than she expected, she also enjoyed the afternoon activities of swimming in the Sea of Galilee and hiking Mount Arbel that shadows Magdala.
At the end of a long week camping out on the shores of Galilee, digging and sifting through dirt for artifacts, enjoying touring the area, the students return with firsthand knowledge of the value of hard work. In this land rich in history, history is learnt not only in books, but right before one’s eyes. Those willing to dig and appreciate the stones that still stand as a testimony to a people who also once worked and played in this land as they have, will possess the joy of learning.