A day like no other: Saving the Stones interns lead tour around the old city of Akko

By Michael Shamah, London, England – Saving the Stones
My name is Michael Shamah, and I am a Saving The Stones intern from London, England, pursuing a BA degree in Archaeology. The Saving The Stones Programme is an international training/ internship in historical and archaeological conservation. As an on and off the field archaeologist in training, this internship has enabled me not only with the unique opportunity of residing in one of the most captivating countries in the world, but it has also equipped me with the right tools necessary nowadays to more effectively deal with issues of conservation in ancient sites.
It seems like it was only yesterday when we, the Saving The Stones group, had our first meeting at the Old Acre Development Center. In this first meeting, we discussed the possibility of getting involved with the community through practical activities involving the local high school students. This discussion became eventually a pilot plan created by the members of the STS group along with the help of some local figures in the community.
The initiative of becoming involved with the local youth in Akko is part of our group effort to bring awareness to the public about the significance of Old Akko in the world. We realized that re-educating the youth about their local heritage is vital in a place such as this, where a multi-layered structure of the past, attracts hundreds of people from all over the world.
As a test drive, we implemented our pilot plan with a group of mainly American students that at the time visited our city. This group is currently based near the Modi’in community, and they are working in a special ecological farming programme here in Israel. 
The Story goes like this…. It was April the 14th, a day of beautiful sunny weather, also a day where I had to overcome my fear of public speaking. This day was especially different than any other day I could remember! Why? You may ask yourself. This is the day where I was out –numbered by Americans, however these Americans weren’t just any average Americans, these American students were eco-friendly, green Americans. As a reader, you may probably wouldn’t know how it feels, but to my relief, they ended up being a pretty cool bunch. These students are part of a green organisation that works on eco-farms all over Israel. They were invited via our legendary Eitan Serber, the foreseer of the STS group. Eitan believed that this interaction could be beneficial in future relationships between the different programmes of Masa Israel, and he was right. At the end of our exercise/pilot with them, we realized it was an undeniable success.
You may now be wondering what the STS programme interns did, in-order for a day like April the 14th, becoming a massive success? This is how the story goes: my peers and I were given a task to create something magical and extraordinary, so the American students would have a time of their lives. The power drive of our exercise success, were the innovators of this magical and extraordinary creation; Tim Rabinek, Anya Filatova, and Shahaf. They created something extraordinary out of nothing; a Tour/ crossword game that was both educational and fun at the same time…That was just pure genius.
The American students were placed into two equal groups, and were given a tour around the old city of Akko, where at the same time they had to solve riddles in-order to fill in a crossword. This provided them with a secret answer to where the final destination would be. For example, in one of the groups the secret answer was “toilet”; with this word, it led the students to the Crusader bathrooms of the hospices compound.
The whole tour was around 1 ½ to 2 hours. The first group was led by one of the innovators himself, Shahaf (an Israeli native), along with Anya and myself. The second group was led by other members of the STS team; Ileana, Ashley, Yano and Caitlin. On a bias level, I do believe that my group of Americans was the better lot; however, as I am supposed to write up a balanced article, both groups had an equal amount of fair play. To sum this up, I thought it was a fabulous and colourful day, and everyone had fun and learnt something new from the exercise (…Finger-crossed that I am right). It was also great meeting up with other young members of Masa Israel, and hopefully, if I could say this on the STS programmes behalf, that we could learn something interesting and new from their end of the table.
Michael Shamah is a STS Intern and an archaeology student at heart.

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