ABM Volunteer Guide 2015

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Tel Abel Beth Maacah Expedition 2015


Welcome to the Tel Abel Beth Maacah expedition’s third season! We are looking forward to a rewarding summer with interesting finds and great friendships. The following information is intended to orient you to the upcoming excavations at the site.

Sponsors and Staff

The expedition is financed by generous donations from friends and alumni of AzusaPacificUniversity (Los Angeles, CA).

The expedition is directed by Dr. Bob Mullins and Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen under the auspices of AzusaPacificUniversity and the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem respectively. Ruhama Bonfil of HebrewUniversity is the surveyor. The staff is made up of professional archaeologists and university professors from AzusaPacificUniversity, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, CornellUniversity, TrinityInternationalUniversity, and TrinitySouthwestUniversity.  

General Information

Dates and schedule: The season of excavations at Tel Abel Beth Maacah (or as it is fondly nicknamed, ABM) will take place from Sunday June 21 –Friday July 17, 2015.  The arrival day at the kibbutz will always be on the Sunday of the week you start digging. The dig days will be Monday to Friday (5 days), with Saturday and Sunday free. Departure will take place on the Sunday morning at the end of your stay, aside from the final fourth week, when departure is on Friday morning.


Period of participation: Every team member must register for a minimum of two weeks (academic credit students for the entire four weeks). On the basis of this registration, we reserve rooms in the kibbutz and plan our excavation strategy. Thus, we must know if there are changes in your plans. Please notify us as soon as possible if there are any changes in the dates you plan to be with us.

Cost:  The basic cost for a room that accommodates 3-4 people is $500 per week (7 nights) for full room and board for the first three weeks and $350 for the final, fourth week (5 nights). The weekly cost includes transportation by air conditioned bus to and from the tell each working day and all the evening lectures. All other transportation arrangements and costs must be made by the individual team member.

There are a few double rooms available, although we recommend early registration in order to ensure availability. The cost for a double room will be $200 per night ($1400 per 7-night week; $1000 for the final 5-night week).

Returning team members are entitled to a discount: the cost will be $450 per week for the first three weeks and $325 for the final fourth week.

  • Weekends are included in the weekly price, whether or not you choose to remain on the kibbutz.
  • Your room will be available to you the day before you start digging (i.e. the Sunday of the week of your arrival). If you wish to come to the kibbutz before this day (or stay additional days), you must please let us know as early as possible so we can make these arrangements. Any extra night that you stay beyond the normal seven day week will cost an additional $71.50.
  • The rooms are available from 14:00 on the day of your arrival and you must vacate the rooms by 10:00 a.m. on the Sunday morning of your departure.  
  • For the most part, you will be in one and the same room during your stay on the kibbutz; however, there is a chance that we may need to move you into a different room for part of the time. Please accept this with understanding.
  • You must pay a deposit of half of the total cost of your accommodations upon registration (see table below). Registration will be finalized only upon receipt of this deposit. The balance can be paid through the same payment system that you used to make the deposit (online or by personal check) or can be paid when you arrive at the kibbutz in the form of U.S. cash or check. The equivalent amount in shekels (the local currency) will also be accepted, based on the representative exchange rate. Details of how to pay and the refund policy are posted on Page 3 of the registration form.
    • Food. You will be provided with a complete breakfast on the tell, a hot meat meal in the bed and breakfast dining room for lunch, and a dairy or meat supper in the dining room. Coffee and tea are available in the rooms, as well as bread and jam or cookies for an early morning ‘snack’ before starting the day. Food on the kibbutz is kosher. If you have special food needs (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), please let us know in advance on the registration form or by email. We will do our very best to accommodate your needs.
    • Room and Bedding. The kibbutz provides each person with a bed, mattress, sheets, pillow, blanket, and towels. Linens are changed twice weekly and towels daily. The room is lightly cleaned daily and thoroughly cleaned twice a week.
    • Laundry. Most people do their laundry by hand; soap can be purchased at the kibbutz convenience store. Each room has laundry lines to hang clothes to dry, which they do quickly in the heat. There is a washing machine available for use on the kibbutz with tokens that you can purchase in the B & B office. Details will be provided upon arrival.
    • Infirmary. There is a medical clinic on the kibbutz which can handle a minor emergency. If a more major illness occurs, we will take the volunteer to a nearby clinic or hospital in Kiryat Shmona or Safed.
    • Medical and Accident insurance. It is imperative that each person has their own medical insurance or else you will not be allowed to excavate. In many cases, the person has to pay for the treatment up front and then get reimbursed back home. This should be checked with your insurance company. You must also demonstrate that you are covered for accidents (such as a fall, car accident, etc.). Bear in mind that some medical insurance policies do not cover accidents, and you must confirm accident coverage before being allowed to excavate. It is highly recommended you purchase travel insurance in addition to your regular medical insurance, which will cover such things as flight delays or cancellation, lost luggage, or accidents while traveling in the country. Some plans will allow you to opt out of medical insurance, or if not, you can purchase a travel plan with minimal medical coverage.
    • Recreation. Free swimming facilities for the volunteers are in the Olympic size kibbutz pool, as are sports’ facilities. The region around the kibbutz is replete with all kinds of interesting tourist attractions and nature sites to visit, as well as shopping and restaurants (including the nearby MacDonalds!), and activities, such as rafting down the Jordan River. Further information and maps are provided by the B & B office.
    • Convenience store. A small but well-equipped grocery store is located on the kibbutz grounds. Opening hours will be posted.
    • Public bus and taxis. A regional bus enters the kibbutz a few times a day and will take you to Kiryat Shmona. You can find out the times from the kibbutz B & B office. Taxis to town are not that expensive (around $15), especially when shared by several people. The kibbutz office will help you order one to the kibbutz if you’d like.
  • Work clothing. Work clothes should be sturdy, light in weight and color, and easy to wash. Since the sun is intense you may need to vary sleeve and pant lengths until you get into condition. Remember that loose clothing is more comfortable than close fitting, and that synthetic fibers tend to be hot. We do not permit excavating without a shirt for men or in a bathing suit for women. Even though we work under shade cloths, sun rays still penetrate and can badly burn exposed skin, so a high SPF sun screen is a must. A good lightweight pair of work gloves is also important if you wish to protect your hands. We recommend garden gloves with a coating of nitrile (a rubber-like film) on the palms and fingers of the gloves. They are light weight but still protect your hands.
  • Work shoes. Sturdy and comfortable shoes are a must. The soles must be thick enough to provide protection from the rocks and an occasional curious scorpion. We discourage sneakers. Sandals are not allowed in the field – only closed shoes!
  • Sun hat. A broad brim hat made from light breathable cotton is best.
  • Casual clothing. For after work and on weekends.  Dress in Israel tends to be informal.  Don't forget your swim suit!
  • Canteen. Although we provide you with cold water in the field, you cannot drink from the common tank. Each person must fill their own canteen or water bottle with the cold water we provide. You will also find it useful for field trips and on weekends. An insulated water bottle holder is a good idea as well. 








Total cost






























Accommodations:  The expedition will be housed at Kibbutz Kfar Szold, ca. 12 km/7 mi southeast of the tell at the northern end of the beautiful Huleh Valley. From the kibbutz you have a marvelous view of the Golan Heights to the east, the Naftali Hills to the west, and the majestic Mt. Hermon to the northeast. Summer sunsets can be breathtaking! Each air-conditioned unit accommodates 3-4 people and includes a kitchenette, shower, and bathroom. Lawns and porches adjoin the rooms. For more information, visit the kibbutz website www.bakfar.co.il. Please note that you do not need to make separate reservations with the kibbutz. We handle that for you. The meal schedule on the website applies to other lodgers and not to the archaeological team. We will provide you with a detailed schedule when you arrive.

What the kibbutz provides:


What to bring (a must): 

Highly Recommended:


Towels and flip-flops

Toilet items

Sunscreen of SPF50 or higher

Medicine, prescription and other

Insect repellent

Clothesline and clothes pins

Liquid detergent in a plastic bottle


Alarm Clock

Reading material

Modest clothing (a wrap skirt and shawl for women and long pants for men) for trips to churches, synagogues, mosques which require modest dress to enter them.


Personal computer/tablet. Free wifi is available on the kibbutz and is also available – also free – at many coffee shops and public places; even on some buses!

Marshalltown pointed trowel (No. 45/4 is the best size). They can be bought in some hardware stores, though they may be hard to get these days. Avoid the cheap off-brands. A good online resource is Forestry Suppliers at 1-800-647-5368 or http://www.forestry-suppliers.com. A 45/4 pointing trowel (Catalog number 53685 with a 4 x 2” blade) sells for $14.95. The 45/5 trowel with a 5” blade is also good, but not as efficient as the shorter blades. Mark your trowel with your name or some other identification so you can easily find it in the dirt!

Travel to Israel: It is recommended that you not arrive in Israel on Friday afternoon when things begins to shut down for the Sabbath (usually by 1:00 PM), or on Saturday when most everything is closed. If you do land at such a time there are taxis. Private taxis are expensive, but shared taxis (sherut) that seat 10 people are available for a lower price. If your destination is Jerusalem, you may take such an airport taxi from a company called “Nesher”. Their station is well marked and right outside the arrival terminal. The ride costs 75 shekels (about $19; no tip is necessary) and they go to Jerusalem where you may stay until the end of the Sabbath. The easiest place to get accommodations is in the Old City of Jerusalem. Tell the driver to let you off at Jaffa Gate. The best bet is to look up possible accommodations on the internet. Even better – make reservations at one of the OldCity youth hostels or hotels before you arrive. Most of them are reasonably priced and clean and safe. Look for Trip Advisor recommendations to be certain or contact the dig staff and we will be happy to advise you.

Arrival in Israel: Plan to arrive in Israel at least one day before you are scheduled to begin the dig, since the trip from the airport (or from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) to the kibbutz takes almost 4 hours.

Money: Upon your arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, we suggest that you change some money into shekels. ATM machines are available throughout Israel that will give you shekels. Be sure to get a PIN number to use with your card if you do not already have one, and make sure it will work in Israel. (NOTE: letter codes are not used in Israel, so if the PIN for your card is a letter sequence, memorize the equivalent numerical sequence.) It is also highly recommended that you notify your bank before you depart concerning which days you will be abroad, so you don’t accidentally find your debit or credit card being declined at the ATM over the suspicion that it might be a fraudulent use of your card.  

Passport: Each team member must have a valid passport whose expiration date is at least 3 months after the time they plan leave the country. Each volunteer must make his/her own arrangements as far as visas are concerned. U.S. citizens receive a free tourist visa upon arrival that is valid for 3 months. Others should consult the Israeli consulate in their region. In 2013, tourist visas were issued on a separate sheet of paper that you insert into your passport and then surrender upon leaving the country.  

Security: When you arrive in Israel you will go through passport control. In some cases you might be questioned as to the intent of your visit to Israel. (Such questioning about your travel intentions may also take place before you board your plane on the way to Israel.) We recommend that you phrase your response something like this: “I will be participating on an archaeological excavation at Tel Abel Beth Maacah near Metulla (or Kiryat Shemona), with Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.” Try to avoid saying “I’m going to work or volunteer”. It may seem silly, but in the past we’ve encountered situations where the security officials took this to mean the need for a special work visa. While it all works out in the end, it’s a pity to go through any hassle. If there is any trouble at all, ask the official to call Nava (NAH-vah). Phone numbers are below. Remember, it is forbidden for tourists visiting Israel to pass into the West Bank or Gaza from Israel. If you plan to visit Jordan or Egypt after the dig, you do not need to go into detail about this with the security people at the airport. It will only raise red flags for them.   

How to get to the kibbutz from Ben Gurion Airport: The best way to get to Kibbutz Kfar Szold is by way of Jerusalem. (If you want to get to the kibbutz from a location other than Jerusalem, please contact Nava for directions). Take the Nesher airport taxi, whose station is located outside the terminal when you exit. The ride costs about 64 shekels (around $18;). Ask to be left off at the Jerusalem central bus station (also called the “Egged Bus Station”, the name of the official bus company). It is about a 45 minute ride (depending on traffic and how hungry the driver is!). Allow yourself 10-15 minutes to get inside the bus station, as sometimes the security check line is long. If you have luggage it might be screened.

Once you are inside the bus station: Take the 963 bus to Kiryat Shmona. This ride costs about 45 shekels ($12). For the schedule, please consult the Egged website (www.egged.co.il) shortly before your arrival in Israel, since schedules can change in the summer. Upon arrival in Kiryat Shmona (Central Bus Station), there are several options to take a get to the kibbutz. A website called www.bus.co.il has information concerning the bus lines and their schedules; some of these lines are run by the Egged company (and you can find them on the Egged website), while others are run by different companies (and you can find them on the www.bus.co.il site). You can also ask the dispatcher at the Kiryat Shmona bus station when you arrive and he will direct you to the bus stop to the kibbutz.

Suggestion: Try to get to the bus stop inside the central bus station in Jerusalem early, since the bus might be crowded with soldiers and others. Don’t take it personally when everyone begins to push and shove to get on the bus. Welcome to Israel! All the buses have luggage compartments on the side. If it’s not open, ask the driver and he/she will open it for you.

Egged bus website: www.egged.co.il

Other website with bus schedule information: www.bus.co.il


When you know your travel arrangements and arrival time in Israel, let us know and we will try to look for other team members arriving at about the same time and connect you to them to possibly arrange to travel together to the kibbutz. If there are enough people ahead of time in Jerusalem, we might be able to hire at a subsidized price (probably around $25), which will take you from Jaffa Gate directly to the kibbutz on the first day (June 21). We will announce the possibility of registration for a group bus to the kibbutz in ample time before the dig so you can let us know your plans. 

Arrival to the kibbutz:  Once you have arrived at the main gate, tell the guard (if there is one) that you are with the archaeological dig and that you need to get to the “Bakfar Country Lodgings”, and then follow the signs. If you have a particularly heavy bag, you can ask to leave it with the guard at the gate and we will pick it up with the car a bit later. Please go to the main office where a representative of the kibbutz and of the expedition will be waiting. At this time you will be assigned to your room. You must present proof of your health insurance to Bob or Nava at this point. You will be given details about any outstanding payment, which can be taken care of on that day or within a few days of arrival.

Computer and Internet Access: Free wi-fi is available on the kibbutz in the rooms, in the public areas, and in the dig office. We were told that the kibbutz added more powerful routers this year so we hope the signal will be strong.  

Staff telephone numbers

HebrewUniversity office: (02) 588-2437

Nava Panitz-Cohen: (02) 582-7832 (home); 054-4403487 (cell phone)

Bob Mullins: 054-552-8617

*(02) is the Jerusalem area code when the number dialed in Israel. If you are in Jerusalem there is no need to dial the area code.

*If calling from outside Israel, you must prefix the number above with 972 (Israel country code) and subtract the 0 from the area code, e.g. Nava’s cell phone: 972-54-4403487. If calling from the U.S. you must first dial the international access code: 011-972-54-4403487.


Schedule:  We leave the kibbutz at 5:00 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly!!) and begin working at 5:30 a.m. We leave the tell at 1:00 p.m and go directly to the kibbutz dining room for lunch. At 4:00 in the afternoon, after you have had a chance to rest, team members are expected to assist with pottery washing and/or other related assignments. Everyone is invited to participate in pottery sorting, which is mandatory for the academic credit students. Team members are also welcome to join the evening lectures two to three times a week, on topics related to biblical archaeology, geography, material culture, etc. A schedule will be handed out upon arrival. On the weekends participants may relax on the kibbutz or choose to travel on their own. During the course of the excavation, there will be two Sunday field trips to archaeological sites in the Galilee. These are mandatory for credit students and all other team members are welcome to participate. The cost is $100 and it covers bus, meals, entrance fees and guide.  


Daily schedule:
4:30    Wake-up and light breakfast in the rooms

5:00    Bus departs for the tell

5:30    Work begins

7:15    Tea break

8:30    Breakfast in the field

9:00    Work resumes

11:00  Juice/fruit break

12:45  Work ends

13:00   Departure from the tell

13:15  Lunch at the  kibbutz dining room

14:00  Siesta (time to sleep, swim, relax, shop at the convenience store)

16:00  Pottery washing, pottery sorting, and other special projects

19:15  Dinner at the  kibbutz dining room

20:00  Lecture time (two-three times a week)

22:00  Suggested bedtime

Work etiquette:

  1. There is little that contributes more to the overall success of an excavation better than mature people who maintain a good attitude towards their work and one another.
  2. Please get up promptly in the morning and make sure that all your roommates are awake.
  3. Be sensitive to the needs of others and respect their privacy.
  4. No loud noise or talking after 21:00 to allow those who wish to go to bed to get their rest.  We recommend that you not stay up later than 22:00 and to take advantage of the afternoon nap times. Fatigue has a cumulative effect.
  5. Leave the lodgings no later than 10 minutes before bus departure time, that is, no later than 4:50 a.m. Prompt arrival is a must. If you miss the bus it is a problem to bring you out to the tell.
  6. Upon arrival to the tell proceed directly to your assigned field and assist with setting up the sun shades and removing work tools from the metal storage bins.
  7. Don't waste time sitting around and talking to people. It is important to the progress of the excavation that everyone maximize their time by going immediately to work. Talking is fine, but you can do it while excavating.
  8. Tel Abel Beth Maacah is a No Smoking dig. If you have to smoke, you will need to do so during break time far from the excavation area. Take care not to start a brush fire in the dry weeds.
  9. No eating in the excavation area. Breakfast takes place in a specially allocated area under a beautiful ‘Giving Tree’ with shade and water. If you must have a little nosh during the dig hours, that’s fine, but please step out of the square. 
  10. No unnecessary walking on the balks or stepping into other peoples squares and work areas without permission.
  11. At quitting time, everyone must stay in their field until your supervisor dismisses you. This will not take place until all the tools have been placed in the bins and the sun shades properly lowered and secured with stones.
  12. Serious misconduct or irresponsibility which endangers others could result in dismissal from the excavations.
  13. We follow strict rules concerning alcohol limitation. Many of us enjoy a relaxing glass of wine or refreshing beer now and then in the evenings or weekends, but it is important that you limit your alcohol intake, as it leads to dehydration, fatigue and other very serious side effects, including inappropriate behavior. Please respect this rule during the excavation.  
  14. Israel in the summer is very hot. Drink plenty of water! Use sunscreen and wear your hat!!
  15. If you don’t feel well, report it to your supervisor and take a rest in the breakfast shade. If necessary, you will be evacuated for medical care. Drink, drink, and drink again (there are great chemical toilets on the tell (the blue temples) that usually stand upright if the wind hasn’t blown them over!

We wish you enjoyable summer! We are certain you will have a wonderful life experience at Tel Abel Beth Maacah and we look forward to meeting you!