Digging Through Years of Jewish History

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JERUSALEM -- South of the city of Jerusalem in a place called Ramat Rachel, dozens of volunteers dug back into biblical history.

"Now the most exciting finds here are the Iron Age, explained Gila Yudkin, a volunteer supervisor.

"The Iron Age is the biblical period and if you know the story about Hezekiah and the Assyrians coming down from the north. Senecharib comes down to Jerusalem. Hezekiah comes to Jerusalem. We're now findings walls and now today a tower from that period," she continued.

Tel Aviv University sponsored this dig. During the excavation, they have discovered coins, pottery and artifacts from thousands of years ago.  About one hundred volunteers worked on this site. They came from all over the world and for various reasons.

"Some of them are interested in archeology already," Yudkin said. "Others are trying to see if they're interested in the future. Some of them are studying theology.

Time Traveling Just By Moving Dirt

Many of the volunteers were Christians. Down in the dirt, they experienced how the land of Israel, its history and the Bible come together.

"It gives you a sense of the history," said volunteer Joy Stark. "That you're in touch with the history, because you're actually touching pieces of history. And to see the different levels, you can see the levels of time, not just the modern. We're down now to the Iron Age."

One father brought his daughter and son to experience this dig.

"I knew i just had to expose my kids to this environment and this opportunity and let it work….let it

work its magic," Rick Berendt said. "It's a wonderful place to be and it's a wonderful activity."

"It's a little tough physically, he said. "I didn't know how the kids would react. I knew they would do well, but they've done much better than I thought and expectations have acceded all around," Berendt continued.

"You're there right where it happened 2000 years ago and it's really something that has to be experienced you can't really imagine it," said Stephanie Berendt. "

"And when you are digging through the Iron Age pottery, you are digging through the Iron Age dirt, you are digging through what dirt was from that time period from the people who may have seen Jesus known him," she said.

"I'm learning about Jesus' life and death here in Jerusalem and Bethlehem," Carl Berendt responded. "We've been traveling around seeing various historical sites where Jesus may have walked and right where you are standing now, you know."

The volunteers ranged in age from ten to 70. While it's hard work, many consider it well worth the physical investment.

"It's an indispensable sort of experience in terms of grasping the reality of history and the roots of Christian-Jewish faith," the elder Berendt said.

"And I would recommend it highly for anyone. no concerns about safety or health we've had a wonderful, wonderful time."

*Original broadcast November 21, 2008.

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