Only three weeks until the first group of supervisors heads over to Ashkelon to help Josh Walton, Lab Director and Grid Supervisor, prepare for the season. That means the volunteer departure date cannot be far behind and along with it, lots of questions about the summer.
Ashkelon is a seaside town located 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv. The site itself is in a national park right on the beach and it is not unheard of for volunteers to run down the hill and go for a swim during Fruit Break. While breezes off the Mediterranean Sea provide much needed cooling throughout the day it is, nevertheless, a challenging work environment. Hydration is key to making it through the day. Fortunately, water is plentiful (and drinkable) in the park. A water bottle is a must. Many volunteers bring Gatorade or other similar products to add a little flavor. It is difficult to impossible to find such items in Israel so you do need to bring it with you if you want more than water. Sunscreen and hats are also very important in helping to manage the sun. Many but not all excavation areas will be shaded by "shade clothes" but it is wise to come prepared for any situation.
What to wear you wonder? Closed toe shoes are a must. No sandals are allowed in the field. This is true for volunteers and staff alike and is really a safety issue. Beyond that requirement there is a great deal of flexibility. Shorts and t-shirts are most common. Some people decide on pants and long sleeve shirts. Basic rule of thumb is to make sure whatever you plan on, it's comfortable. Same is true for out of the field. There is one big party a year which gives everyone a chance to put on their "good clothes." In Ashkelon this often means putting on the nice pair of sandals. The best news? We get laundry service twice a week.
The hotel offers us a lot of comforts that many excavations don't get to enjoy. Rooms are air conditioned and come equipped with small refrigerators and an electric teapot. So bring your Via or other favorite coffee or tea, you'll be able to make some in the room. Most of our meals are eaten in the hotel and food is plentiful. Breakfast in the hotel, with all the fresh pastries on tap, is always a special treat. Most days, however, we eat breakfast out in the field in the location below.
We work six days a week stopping at 1:00 on Friday to give people time to travel before the start of Shabbat. Israel is a small country so the good news its easy to travel and get to almost any place you might want to see. The expedition sponsors several field trips, including one to Jerusalem, to help orient everyone to the sights. Buses and trains run before and after Shabbat, rental cars are readily available (you just need your American driver's license), and taxis, both local and long distance, generally run all the time.
Many people decide to stay in Ashkelon on weekends. The beach is a ten minute walk from the hotel. The marina lies a short walk to the north and there are a number of restaurants, some with free wifi, that are great for dinner, grabbing a coffee, or just wandering around to take in the sights. Walk up the hill away from the coast and you'll find yourself at the grocery store or, more importantly, the "close mall" where you can grab a coffee at Aroma, Israel's major coffee chain, go shopping for a book or even stock up on gummies. Just a little further is McDonald's if you find you have a craving for home. There is a movie theatre in town and all the major summer releases will be showing there usually only a week or two later than their release date in the US. In other words, there is plenty to do close to your summer home-away-from-home.
ATMs are also readily available though there is a small service charge for using one. You can use credit cards almost every where with the exception of many of the small local stores. It is also fairly easy to find money changers if you prefer to go that route.
Finally, what about internet access? The good news is that the hotel has free wifi in the lobby. It's also possible to buy wifi. As mentioned previously, many of the cafes near the hotel offer free wifi so it is easy to stay connected. Bring adaptors appropriate for Israel so that necessary electronics can be charged.
Next time, we'll talk a little more about the field school and a day in the field. Until then, here's another glimpse of the small fair that set up shop in Ashkelon this month.