Team member at Hippos sifting dirt from excavation, seeking treasures. Scarf intended to protect face from dust. Prof. Michael Eisenberg

Where You Can Volunteer at Archaeological Digs in Israel

Pick up a pickax or a paintbrush and join the experts in the field, in search of clues to our history. Tip: Book in advance and bring a hat



Archaeology is the science of excavating at a judiciously chosen spot, in hopeful search for remnants from our history. Some digs involve painstaking work, cautiously removing the accretion of centuries or millennia with a fine-haired brush. Others involve removing earth with a pickax. Archaeologists can spend what seems to be eons uncovering nothing, or at least nothing worthy of note (sometimes a wall is just a wall).

Then there are the eureka moments. A coin from unexpected provenance is found. A mask turns out to go back 9,000 years. A crumb of charcoal turns out to be a meal tens or hundreds of thousands of years old. A figurine in a Judaic town shows the Bible accurately accused locals of adoring strange gods, to the alleged annoyance of YHWH, whose reported vengeance can be detected in charred destruction layers.

Many digs in Israel welcome volunteers, most but not all for free. Some are suitable for family fun, some involve real labor. You are well advised to book in advance. You're even better advised to treat the day as an opportunity for exercise and bonhomie, in which any discovery is added value.

Courtesy of the City of David Archives, photo by Eliyahu Yanai

JERUSALEM

Emek Tzurim National Park: City of David sifting project

When: Sunday-Thursday, 9:00 A.M. to 17:00 P.M. The site is closed on Saturday.

Booking: You can show up without appointment! But it's best to book by calling *6033 (from an Israeli phone) or via the Emek Tzurim website.

Groups must be booked ahead of time and can be accommodated on Friday. 

What you might expect to find: Sifting from active archaeological excavations in the area of ancient Jerusalem - such as in the City of David, and by the Western Wall. Finds in recent years finds have included First Temple Period stamp impressions bearing the name of a known Priestly family, ancient coins, a beka half shekel weight from the First Temple Period, arrow heads and more… 

Gear: Bring hat, water, sturdy shoes, patience. 

Suitable as family fun: Yes! Very family friendly atmosphere, ages 4-120 are welcome, the group says. The sifting takes place inside, making it an ideal family activity in almost all weather conditions. Food and drink can be purchased on the premises. 

Entrance fee: 24 shekels for adults, 19 shekels for children. Special family/group rates are available. 

Website for more information: City of David, Emek Tzurim

Temple Mount Sifting Project

When: Starting on June 2: Sunday-Thursday 9:00-17:00, Friday 9:00-13:00 (winter: 9:00-12:00). The site is closed on Saturday.

Booking: You do have to book in advance to assure there's enough room. Click here at The Temple Mount Sifting organization, or call: +972-2-5667067, or email contact@tmsifting.

Although the site is open most of the day as written above, the norm is to book a two-hour visit. 

What you might expect to find: The seal of a biblical priest who served in the First Temple, coins used to pay the Temple Tax, horseshoe nails of the Knights Templar, arrowheads, pottery, glass, mosaics and much more.

Gear: None required: the activity is in a shaded, paved area so sandals for instance are fine, but bring your own food and water.

Suitable as family fun: Yes! A 2-hour experience within city limits.

Entrance fee: 20 shekels adult, 15 shekels child (children under 10 free), family/group rates are available.

JERUSALEM  ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK, Davidson Center

When: Present – August 31, 6:30 AM-14:30 PM

Booking: Write to adulam@israntique.org.il

What you might expect to find: The park is adjacent to the Western Wall and has artifacts from different periods: the First and Second Temple periods, the early Muslim period, the Crusader period, and more. The site includes walls of the city from the First Temple period, steps leading up to the Temple, the original street from the Second Temple period, shops, ritual baths and more. 

Gear: Hat, hiking boots, sunglasses, sunscreen, food and water for the day. Long trousers and sleeves are recommended

Suitable as family fun: No. Volunteers accepted from age 16.

Preliminary requirement: Volunteers must fill the volunteer questionnaire and send by e-mail with a photocopy of health insurance

GALILEE: HIPPOS, on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee

The Hippos (Sussita) Excavations Project is run by Haifa University, on a hillside east of the Sea of Galilee.

When: June 30 to July 25, Sunday-Thursday, from 5:10 A.M. to 12 noon

What you might expect to find: The site contains a burned Byzantine church with mosaic floor decorations, a Roman main street and plaza, and a Roman theater

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project – Arleta Kowalewska, Hippos co-director: arleta.kow@gmail.com

Gear: Personal water bottle, long pants, boots.

Suitable as family fun: No

University of Haifa

GALILEE: BETH SHE'ARIM 

When: August 25 to September 19, Sunday-Thursday. Daily work begins at 6:00 A.M.; breakfast at the site is at 9:00 A.M., and a shorter break at 11:30 A.M. At 13:00 P.M. we wash pottery and at 14:30 P.M. we have lunch. Afternoons and weekends are free. Option for accommodation in Oranim College.

What might expect to find: Beth She'arim is a Jewish town in Galilee from the Roman and Byzantine periods, near a Jewish necropolis. Buildings, streets, underground complexes, olive press and many finds.

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project – Rona Evyasaf, rona.evyasaf@gmail.com

Gear: The work requires various levels of physical conditioning, curiosity, and motivation for hard work and adventure. Work includes digging, shifting dirt, washing pottery and sorting finds. Bring hat, water, comfortable work shoes. Breakfast is provided.  

Suitable as family fun: Families are welcome but it's not for young children.

Picture/s of site/previous finds there! Attached are some pictures and call for volunteers coming from abroad and need full board.

GOLAN HEIGHTS: MAJDULIYYA

When: June 30 to July 26, 5:30 A.M. to 13:00 P.M.

What you might expect to find: This is a Roman-period ancient Jewish village in the Golan. Already found so far: Ancient synagogue, houses, olive presses 

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project: Michael Osband mickeyosband@gmail.com

Gear: Bring hat, water, boots, patience

Suitable as family fun: No

Eli Getstein

JORDAN VALLEY: TEL TSAF

When: July 2-24, hours TBD

What you might expect to find: This is a 7,200-year-old prehistoric village with amazing preservation of mudbricks architecture, botanic remains and exotic finds 

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project: Prof Danny Rosenberg - 054-3093666; drosenberg@research.haifa.ac.il

Gear: TBD

Suitable as family fun: Yes!

JORDAN VALLEY: Tel Yaqush, close to the outlet of Nahal Tabor into the Jordan Valley, overlooking the fish ponds of Kibbutz Gesher

Tel Yaqush Research and Excavations project is conducted on behalf of the Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania and the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. 

When: July 7th - August 1st, from 5am to 12:30pm.

What you might expect to find: The site is an Early Bronze Age village (3600-2550 BCE), with mud brick houses, streets and courtyards. The dwellings contain rich household remains, including pottery vessels, flint, stone tools, animal bones and botanical remains.

Who to contact: Volunteers for a full day or more can contact us at: tel.yaqush@gmail.com

Gear: Comfortable work clothing including long pants and boots, personal water bottle, sunscreen, and hat. 

Suitable as family fun: No

University of Haifa

HAIFA: NEVE DAVID

When: September 2-26, Sunday-Thursday, 06:30 A.M.-16:30 P.M.

What you might expect to find: Neve David is an open-air prehistoric camp that was inhabited by hunter-gatherers at the end of the last Ice Age, some 16,000 years ago. The finds include numerous fossil animal remains, traces of fire and knapped stone tools.  

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project: Reuven Yeshurun (ryeshuru@research.haifa.ac.il)

Gear: Hat, water, plenty of patience

Suitable as family fun: Only for very patient teenagers.

BEN SHEMEN FOREST: Tel Hadid

The Tel Hadid Archaeological Project is run by Tel Aviv University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

When: June 2­–27, Sunday to Thursday, 6:00am–1:00pm

What you might expect to find: Late Iron Age settlement remains, Hasmonean period fortress, Byzantine period agricultural complexes

Who to contact: To reserve a spot please contact Hadid.excavations@gmail.com

Gear: Long pants, closed-toed shoes, hats, sunscreen, water bottles

Suitable as family fun: Yes!

Note our family archaeology fun day on Monday, June 10, Isru-Chag Shavuot, 9:00am–1:30pm

PARDES HANA-KARKUR, Ein Esur

When: Present – August 31, 6:30 AM-14:30 PM

Booking: Write to Rafi Shallev, rshallev@gmail.com

What you might expect to find: Ein Esur is the largest proto-historic settlement in the southern Levant. During the 5th millenium the Chalcolithic settlement was at least 50ha. In size and during the late 4th millennium the Early Bronze Age site reached ca. 70ha. in size and was one of the earliest cities known. 

Gear: Hat, hiking boots, sunglasses, sunscreen, food and water for the day. Long trousers and sleeves are recommended

Suitable as family fun: No. Volunteers accepted from age 16.

Preliminary requirement: Volunteers must fill the volunteer questionnaire and send by e-mail with a photocopy of health insurance

MODI'IN, Horbat Tittora

When: Present – August 31, 6:30 AM-14:30 PM

Booking: Write to Rafi Shallev, rshallev@gmail.com and and Vered Bosidan, veredbos@israntique.org.il

What you might expect to find: Medieval tower. 

Gear: Hat, hiking boots, sunglasses, sunscreen, food and water for the day. Long trousers and sleeves are recommended

Suitable as family fun: Yes!

Preliminary requirement: Volunteers must fill the volunteer questionnaire and send by e-mail with a photocopy of health insurance

Courtesy of Dr. Alexander Fantalkin

ASHDOD, Ashdod-Yam

When: 21 July - 17 August, Monday to Friday; working hours: 6:00 - 13:00

What you might expect to find: Iron Age (8th-7th century BCE) administrative buildings and fortifications; Hellenistic Period; Byzantine church with mosaic and inscriptions

For more detailed description, see:  https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-inscription-may-show-place-of-long-lost-city-ashdod-yam-1.5626643

Who to contact to book place in volunteer project: Dr. Alexander Fantalkin (Tel Aviv University): fantalk@tauex.tau.ac.il

Gear: hat, sun protection, personal water bottle; closed shoes

Suitable as family fun: Yes!

 

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