Students await expedition to Israel

by Bonnie H. Chuen
Staff Writer

In the wake of today’s crisis in the Middle East there once existed a city center where Pagans, Christians, Jews and Muslims co-existed peacefully. This city, known as Sepphoris, has now become a major archeological site in Israel that will soon be visited by nine University of La Verne students and their adviser, Dr. Jonathan Reed, assistant professor of religion.

According to Dr. Reed, the trip will be a five-week expedition, beginning on May 27, with a possible week-long trip to Jerusalem and a three-day stop in London.

Students will leave the day after Commence­ment and will arrive in Israel two days later to work on the site. The students will dig in small groups led by area supervisors and are taught the basics of excavation methodology, according to the pamphlet handed out earlier this semester.

The students will be housed in “primitive dorms, a little better than Brandt. They are single dorms on the edge of a small Israeli village. Four to a room, shared bathroom and air conditioning,” said Dr. Reed.

Students will dine on “cafeteria food, [mostly] simple meals,” he said.

Students who are planning to take the trip will have many adjustments to make. “[The] work is physically very demanding, the climate is dry and hot,” said Dr. Reed.

The Sabbath will also be a big shock, according to Dr. Reed. It starts “Friday night and continues all day Saturday and stops Saturday evening when the sun goes down,” he said.

“Our guest house is in a conservative Jewish settlement. It shuts down for Sabbath. Even cars have to park outside,” said Dr. Reed.

The citizens of Israel have a “military mindset,” he said.

“The hardest thing to get used to was seeing everyone carry a gun,” said Bill Purcell, senior, who has made the trip in 1992, and will be going again this year.

According to Dr. Reed, the amount of barbed wire and the level of military activity can also be quite disturbing for someone who has never been exposed to such a lifestyle.

“Along with the cultural differences, students also have to adjust to time differences,” he said.

Students participating in the archeological dig begin work at five o’clock in the morning and work till about noon. The climate makes it hard to work on the site during the afternoon hours.

Due to the current rash of bombings in Israel, security precautions have been instated to insure the safety of the students. The first has been restricted weekend travel, and second the possible cancellation of the week-long tour of Jerusalem at the end of the trip.

“My wife and kids are coming, and I would not put them in danger. The safety of the students and the safety of my wife and children is our first priority,” Dr. Reed said.

The safety issue has not affected the students’ interest in the trip.

“I’m more excited than scared,” said senior Julie Leo, who will be going on the trip.

Along with the five-week trip, the students who are participating on the excavation are also enrolled in Religion 339, Archaeology in Roman Palestine, during the spring semester.

“I like the historical perspective of it. The history is really interesting,” said junior Tyson Dusch, who is majoring in religion and philosophy.

According to Dr. Reed, Sepphoris is a significant archeological site in Israel for many reasons. During the second century, the city was where the prince Juddah codified the Mishnah, which is the collection of Jewish laws.

“It was a major center of learning for Jewish rabbis,” said Dr. Reed.

Sepphoris is also a “major site being talked about by historians of Christ and Judaism,” he said.

Sepphoris will also be visited by President Stephen Morgan and Dr. John Gingrich, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, on the way back from their trip to ULV’s Athens campus.

“I think it is an important opportunity for ULV students. We’d like to be able to see what that’s all about,” said Dr. Gingrich.

Along with ULV, other universities will be working in Israel, including Duke University from North Carolina, Wake Forest University from Michigan, and the University of Connecticut.

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