Travels in Samaria

I’ve been living in Ariel for four months now, but my explorations in the surrounding region have been quite limited. That changed this week.

I’ve been thinking about getting a car. It was wishful thinking more than anything. I asked around and found out how much used cars go for. I started thinking about saving up some money to buy one. Then a friend texted me to say that someone she knew had a car for sale. Did I want to look at it?

I took the bus to Itamar, a settlement about a 20 minute drive from Ariel, where I met up with the owner of the car, a 2006 Hyundai Getz. The price was quite low, and I suspected that something must be wrong with it. I asked the owner if I could have a mechanic check it out, and she agreed. We went together to a mechanic whom a friend had recommended in a nearby settlement. He gave the car a thorough examination and came up with a list of repairs that it needed.

My new car

Even when I added the cost of the repairs to the price of the car, it was quite inexpensive, and I already had enough money saved to be able to afford it.

I decided to purchase the car. We headed to the post office in Ariel, which apparently also functions as the DMV. However, it is not so easy for a non-Israeli to buy an Israeli car. However, with the help of a friend, I finally managed to transfer the title and insure the car. I promptly dropped it off at the mechanic. He is waiting on some parts, but he hopes to have it ready for me next week.

An Adventure in Shechem

On Tuesday, there was an archaeology conference and tour at Shave Shomron, another settlement in Samaria. I caught a ride with a friend in the morning and spent the day in the library there. They had some books that I had been looking for, so I was glad for a chance to do some research.

The ancient city gate at Shechem

The conference was in the evening. The theme was the life of Joseph, and there were a number of speakers. It was all in Hebrew, so I didn’t understand much, but I could tell that a lot of the discussion centered around the question of where Joseph was buried.

The conference ended at 10:00 pm, and then the tour started. I was a bit confused as to why they wanted to go on a tour at night. Everyone was very excited. They said that an opportunity like this only comes along every five years. They were sure that I didn’t want to miss out. I was pretty sure that I wanted to go to bed, but that wasn’t an option, since I had to wait for a ride back to Ariel.

We went in two busses, taking a circuitous route into Nablus (modern Shechem). The streets were deserted except for Israeli soldiers – lots of Israeli soldiers. Someone informed me that the locals had been warned not to leave their houses. The busses stopped behind Tel Balatah, which is the site of biblical Shechem. We got out and walked to the tel with a military escort. The soldiers cut the wire of the fence surrounding the site, and we crawled through the opening they created in the fence.

Our military escort

The tour guide led us from one location on the site to another, stopping to give brief explanations. The soldiers wanted us to hurry. They kept pushing us along. The locals were staying indoors, but they were yelling though their windows, clearly not happy about the military presence in their hometown. The tour didn’t last long, and the soldiers hurried us back through the cut fence.

An ancient stone monument at Shechem

Our next stop was at a site known as the Tomb of Joseph. Since I didn’t understand the lectures in Hebrew, I don’t know if they had concluded that this was or wasn’t the real tomb of Joseph. However, the tour group seemed happy to be there. The atmosphere was a lot more relaxed. It was in a sheltered area, and the soldiers weren’t so worried about us there. People were praying, singing, and dancing.

It was 1:00 am by the time the tour finished. I caught a ride back to Ariel and was in bed by 2:00 am. The tour was exciting and definitely an adventure, but it made me sad to see how much mistrust and animosity there is between neighboring peoples here.

Survey of Mount Kabir

On Mount Kabir

Today was an exciting day. I have been looking forward to it for several months. Shai Bar, who is in charge of the Manasseh Hill Country Survey, began a new section of the survey today, Mount Kabir. I am part of his survey team.

Mount Kabir is one of the mountains that surround Shechem. It is across from Mount Ebal. All the area surrounding Mount Kabir has been surveyed in the past, but for some reason, nobody has ever surveyed the mountain itself. That means that as we survey it, we will be finding and documenting ancient sites that nobody has ever found before.

On Mount Kabir

Six team members showed up for the survey today. Since my car is still at the mechanic, I caught a ride with a team member whose route took him past Ariel.

A resident of Elon More, a settlement located on Mount Kabir, invited the team in for tea and pastries. After that, we headed out to the slopes of the mountain. We spread out into an evenly spaced line and started walking. We looked for pottery and for any evidence of a site.

The mountainside was terraced and there were stone walls dividing one field from another. We documented those. At one place, we found a lot of pottery sherds, but no sign of any structures. At another place, we found the ruins of a structure. We gathered around it and searched for pottery. There was not a lot, but we collected a handful.

It had been drizzling on and off, but eventually the rain fell heavier and we got drenched. We called it a day and headed home. Hopefully the weather will be nicer next week, and we can pick up where we left off.

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