Saving the Stones: the first week

 
So much has occurred since arriving at the Akko train station on February 20 that it is hard to know where to begin. In that case, I shall begin at the beginning...
 
The first week was orientation week in the true sense of the phrase. It began with a 9:48am arrival at the Akko train station and a round of energetic, yet sleepy, introductions, followed by a quick ride to our new home.
 
Tzipi’s Place is large two story home with studio apartments on the ground floor and a house on the second, where Tzipi lives. Her large garden is a unique place in Akko (and maybe the world) with lots of planters converted from all sorts of items - from tea kettles to toilets.
 
There are benches for enjoying the sun, a multi-color picket fence, peace lilies everywhere you look, and a lot of quiet. The aesthetic is topped off by Tzipi’s Friday morning singing as she tends the garden and greets you with a hearty "hello!."
 
The first week was a whirlwind of introductions as we met key people and places in the surrounding community. The week officially closed on Friday night with Shabbat dinner at various host families throughout the city.
 
One of the homes had never spoken English within their walls but thought it was important to welcome us into their home and thoroughly enjoyed our company nonetheless. The families were all gracious, incredibly hospitable, and, fortunately, good cooks!
 
After spending the first week learning all the "who"s and "where"s, we spent the second week learning "what." What are we doing here? What is conservation? What isn’t conservation? We were also encouraged to think about our final projects as we move throughout the course and to keep what we are learning in the back of our minds as we develop feasible ideas.
 
When it comes to the final project, (almost) anything goes. You can do anything from developing a children’s program to conserving a grave site, plus the project is not geographically confined, either. For example, I will be working at Caesarea, a coastal site about 70km south of Akko that has been a testing ground for conservation technologies (more details are on the way!).
 
Week three brought a variety of lectures, exercises, and workshops, including archaeological excavation methods, a tour of Tel Akko from the excavation’s co-director (Ann Killebrew, Univ. of Pennsylvania), a flashlight-guided tour of parts of Crusader Akko that are not open to the public (Danny Syon, IAA), and even a hummus making tutorial from one of the Saving the Stones participants! We also learned about antiquities theft, the organization of the black market, and the legal loopholes of international dealing from Shai Bartura, deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) crime division.
 
Wednesday began with two tours, one of the architecture of the new city and one of the IAA’s ceramic restoration workshop for the northern region of Israel, housed here in Akko. The week was rounded off with a three day weekend for Purim, post-Purim recovery, and general relaxation. After the storm that hit the coast last weekend and made for a rough day Monday, we are all grateful for the sunshine and warmth that finally came to Akko. 
 
In addition to our formal program, we have attended many cultural events over the past few weeks. Let’s see...we went to a Masa cultural event where we saw musician Shlomi Shaban, novelist Eshkol Nevo, and the band Mookie, the local conservatory for an amazing operatic performance by Israel’s own Yaniv D’or (http://youtu.be/Iq509edSi5A), the Akko Auditorium to see the Andalusia Orchestra, and, or course, Akko’s one rock music venue, MED (or, as the bartender calls it, the venue in Akko).
 
There are many exciting events on the horizon! Oh, yeah...and lots of hard work, too. I will keep you informed on both as we move along. Its going to be an awesome experience!
 

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