Megiddo Field School, Israel. George Washington University
“If you like ____, you’ll love this field school”: A bit of everything
When: Two 3-week sessions run in alternating years in June and July (Summer 2014 is the next session).
Cost: Cost is around $1500 USD per 3 week session for the field school. This includes dig fees, accommodation for the entirety of your stay, and most meals. Some weekend meals and pre-digging breakfast are not included, but there is a small store on the kibbutz where you may purchase a variety of food items at low cost.
It is also advisable to have some extra money for weekend excursions. You may stay on the kibbutz during weekends, but many students take the opportunity to explore nearby cities and other sites.
Living conditions: Rooms are small, single beds and shared between four people of the same sex. Each room has a tiny ensuite bathroom, microwave, sink, and minifridge, as well as some storage for clothes. Be prepared- the accommodations definitely are rustic; I would compare it to an old motel. The kibbutz was built in the 1940s, and I’d say there hasn’t been much updating since the ’70s! But don’t let this dissuade you- the place is comfortable, and for the price of the dig, you’re getting a deal. Also…there is AC! A major bonus for anyone who knows how hot the Middle East is in the summer.
The main meals are Breakfast (on site), lunch and dinner (on the kibbutz). Meals are basic and feature a mix of common western foods (cereal, toast, yoghurt), and opportunities to try more local cuisine (can anyone say hummus?). Again, don’t expect Michelin star restaurant quality, but the food is definitely edible and plentiful.
Internet is also available, along with tea/coffee in the management house. Laundry service is available as well, at low cost. You work 5 days a week, with Friday and Saturday being rest days.
The Team: Massive- at least 100 people if not more! But you are divided into area groups and then smaller unit groups and will have a chance to meet people there. The general age range of volunteers is 20-something, but there are always outliers and it’s great fun getting to know other people.
No experience is required, making it a perfect dig for first-time students. But beware- you will be expected to work hard! Working days are long, and often involve very physical labour. Tarps are provided for some shade, but you may have to work outside of these and it can be exhausting.
Culture: There is plenty of opportunity to get out and make excursions to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Masada, Jerusalem, or anywhere else you might fancy. However, these excursions are not organized by the dig, you will have to gather some fellow students and plan the trips yourselves (which is fairly easy to do with the help of the wonderful dig management staff). You will also interact with the locals quite a bit on the kibbutz as they are permanent residents, and very friendly! Israel is fairly westernized so it’s pretty easy to blend in and not feel shocked however, be forewarned, you can’t do ANYTHING on a Friday night or early Saturday morning due to Shabbat, especially if you are in Jerusalem. So ensure that you have all the food and entertainment you need before the shops all shut down in the early afternoon.
Best thing: THE POOL! DID I MENTION THAT THERE IS A POOL? The kibbutz boasts its own cool, clean pool that you may enjoy for no charge every day after digging and lunch…tanning and cooling off- perfection!
Evening lectures from top professors in a wide array of subjects are also very good. These are provided mainly for the George Washington students who are at the field school to earn class credits, but anyone is welcome to attend. Also, you will meet tons of great friends and have make enjoyable memories!
Worst thing: Depending on the unit you are in, the work can be extremely hard! Some units have been open for many seasons, and so the work is more detailed and less laborious, while others are in the process of being opened or re-opened, which means lots and lots of pick-axing, shovelling, and dirt-dumping. Be sure to bring some painkillers in case your back starts to hurt. It’s not all bad though, because your body quickly gets used to the work and it’s a great way to work up a sweat for those who enjoy that kind of stuff.
Where to go for more information and applications: https://sites.google.com/site/megiddoexpedition/