Meet Our Diggers: Rachael Downey, Australia

Rachael Downey

21 years old

Macquarie University, Sydney. Australia

Studying, BA Dip. Ed. Majoring in Ancient History

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AZ: How do you find yourself here?

RD: I always wanted to come to Israel, and, I always wanted to join an archaeological dig.

I took a course in the ancient history of Israel. When I missed a lecture I listened to the podcast, and heard they would be running a dig. I said, “I’m there!” and signed up right away. So yes, I am completely interested in what is going on here.

AZ: Why did you always want to come to Israel?

RD: I am a Christian, so Israel is really important and contains so many places I read about from my earliest learning. On a spiritual level as well, to be here in the flesh and see the countryside is amazing.

AZ: How will this help you in the future?

RD: I am planning to be a high school teacher. I personally am interested specifically in religions both ancient and modern, and how religion changes. The denominations between and within modern religions interests me; the smaller sects. The Australian government recently approved a high school course where the students meet a rabbi in a synagogue, an imam in the mosque, experience a Buddhist retreat, 5 religions in all, and gain an understanding. I did not get such a course when I was in high school, I wish I had – and I would like to teach that course. Israel has a really unique mix of religions and a broad range of people, and I am especially looking forward to the Jerusalem trip. That city is really a mosaic of spirituality. I am looking forward to going to the Western Wall tunnels and the water tunnels in ancient Jerusalem.

AZ: How do you find your experience so far?

RD: It has been great. I think I am hooked on excavation. I thought I would find the digging element draining, but I love the labor. My work in the field this week has already cleared up misnomers of how excavations work. Hopefully I can bring that into the classroom as a teacher in 2.5 years time [when I graduate]. I definitely want to come back next year. In fact I am enjoying this so much, from now I am already saving for next year!

AZ: Rachael, you have been here less than a week. Can you identify any difference in your perspective or understanding you did not have a week ago?

RD: My thought about archaeology was that if you find anything ancient, it must be very valuable. It is so interesting to me to discover the reality. We have been digging in topsoil where there is a mix of periods. And we are following scientific guidelines in the execution and recording. It is so specific and strict about what you find, how you are digging, the techniques, that a beautiful piece of ancient pottery out of the excavation square is useless, blasé. This strict scientific discipline I was not expecting. We have pottery thousands of years old not in context deemed useless. I learned from this that context is everything, really everything when it comes to archaeology. The pottery can be great, but if it does not tell you about time, place, date, if it does not add information to that level, it is useless.

AZ: I must mention that despite that, even such a piece brought into the classroom is highly effective educationally. So, what else do you hope to achieve on this trip?

RD: I am looking forward to getting to see more of the country. And the people here have been so nice and patient in tackling Hebrew, which will help me in my studies and teaching.

AZ: What else have you learned?

RD: I find many aspects in which Israel is similar to Australia. There are a lot of misnomers I heard from people who have not been here. I was told I would have to walk around really covered up, wearing a head scarf everywhere. They were very wrong.

I discovered that you can travel to the other side of the world and meet people passionate about same things you are. I love that this excavation program is international. I have had really intensive conversations with the other volunteers and students about their cultures, religious beliefs, and governments. The program really works.

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Filed under archaeology, Azekah, excavation, Tel Aviv University

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