Sunrise over the Jezreel Valley

Have you ever wished that, just once, you could participate in a real live archaeological dig in Israel?

Here’s your chance! Nurturing Faith Experiences, in partnership with Campbell University Divinity School, has arranged for a limited number of participants to join the Jezreel Expedition for two weeks next June. Jezreel, about an hour and a half north of Jerusalem, sits on one of the foothills of Mount Gilboa, overlooking the beautiful and fertile Valley of Jezreel. It was a strategic military outpost of the kings of Israel, and associated with several biblical stories.

The Jezreel Expedition, which began in 2013, is affiliated with the American Schools of Oriental Research. It is a joint project of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, Israel, and the University of Evansville (Indiana). Dig co-directors are Prof. Norma Franklin from Haifa and Prof. Jennie Ebeling of Evansville.

A man carrying a tray of “Jerusalem bagels” down Lion’s Gate Street.

The dates for our trip are June 7-22. We plan to leave early in the morning on June 7 in order to arrive in Israel the next morning, when we will embark on a two-and-a-half day “mini-tour” of Jerusalem and select sites nearby. We will spend two nights (Friday-Saturday) in Jerusalem as we adjust to the time change and visit important locations, then take in more of the country as we travel to Jezreel on Sunday.

We’ll join the dig from June 10-22, lodging and taking our meals at Kibbutz Yizre’el, a pleasant gated community of about 500 folk living in a traditional kibbutz.

Sculptured seating from basalt is the work of sculptor Omri Fink, a kibbutznik.

Accommodations may vary, but all rooms include air conditioning, wifi, and a small refrigerator. We will have breakfast during a break at the dig site, and take our other meals in the community dining hall. The kibbutz has a small store where we can purchase snacks, drinks, and other supplies.

Participants must be in good health, both willing and able to rise early and engage in strenuous activity that involves walking, climbing, kneeling, digging, lifting buckets of dirt, and occasionally pushing a wheelbarrow. Team members should also be cooperative and flexible: we will be working side by side with an international team of archaeologists and students.

Handpicks, brushes, trowels, and dustpans come in handy when digging calls for care: most of the time.

A typical day begins at 5:00 a.m. with a short van ride to the site, where we dig (with breaks) until 12:00-1:00 p.m., usually concluding the morning by washing pottery with our feet in the refreshing waters of the shady Jezreel Spring. After lunch at the kibbutz (the heaviest meal of the day), we have time for showers and a short siesta before gathering to “read and write” the pottery we have collected. Here we assist experts who determine the style and approximate age of the pottery, sort the most useful pieces, and label them with identifying codes.

In the evenings, we will enjoy field school lectures or free time. On Saturday and some afternoons, we will visit other sites in the area, such as Caesarea Maritima, Megiddo, Nazareth, or Beth Shan.

No previous dig experience is required — just a willingness to learn and a cooperative spirit. We train on the job with proper dig techniques and everyone contributes.

Staff members Noga Blockman of Tel Aviv University (left) and Ian Cipin of University College London examine pottery as team members look on.

Few things are more exciting than uncovering a sherd of decorated pottery or other artifact that hasn’t seen the light of day in thousands of years, and to learn what that tells us about the history of the site.

The cost of the trip is $3990. That includes roundtrip airfare, ground transportation, lodging, and all but a very few meals. Since space is limited, participants are encouraged to apply early. Payment begins with a $100 registration fee (refundable by March 1), a payment of $1500 by March 1, and the balance paid by May 1.

Online registration through Campbell University Divinity School will be available soon. In the meantime, please contact me directly at to reserve your spot and receive further information.

To learn more about the dig in Jezreel, the lodgings at Kibbutz Yizre’el, and other opportunities associated with the trip, take a look at my blogs describing the experience Susan and I had this past June. You can begin with this one and work your way forward through the next few blogs (here, here, here, and here) to get a good picture of what to expect.

It’s not often we have an opportunity for such an “up close and personal” encounter with the land we call holy — a terrific experience for you, or one that could make an amazing gift for a pastor or other beloved minister who has longed for a deeper understanding of the Holy Land.

Dig in!

Share This