Students travel to Israel for a week of excavation and adventure
July 8, 2010 By Leigh Ivey
Dr. Tom McCollough to Israel, where they visited an excavation
site and toured Jerusalem and the Galilee region.
Mills (left) says the week-long trip was “deeply educational, not
only in archaeological ways but also in political and religious
Emily Mills ’13 of Hendersonville, Tenn., hadn’t planned on traveling to Israel this summer. Instead, she was scheduled to take part in a trip to Israel during CentreTerm 2011, when Centre College students often take advantage of the College’s unique three-week winter term to study abroad.
Mills’ desire to travel to Israel was sparked by the two religion courses she has taken at Centre, both of which were taught by religion and history professor Dr. Tom McCollough.
“Religion is fascinating to me,” Mills says. “The religion courses are ones I always look forward to, and I enjoy the discussions. When I heard Dr. McCollough was taking students to Israel, I immediately wanted to go. I’m Catholic, so obviously the Holy Land holds a great deal of religious significance for me. And how often do you have the opportunity to go to Israel?”
Mills says she was also inspired to travel to the country “to learn more about the land and the history of the people who call it home and the fight for their right to live there. When Dr. McCollough asked me if I’d like to come along to visit the excavation site he’s working on in Galilee this summer—rather than waiting to visit the country next January—I jumped at the chance.”
Along with Katy Dyche ’11 of Louisville, Mills and McCollough spent three days in Jerusalem and four in the Galilee region, where they observed historical sites and studied archaeological techniques. “Dr. McCollough explained to us how excavation sites are found and cleaned, how the age of artifacts are estimated and the process one must go through to be able to ‘dig’ the site. We were also able to handle some artifacts from sites Dr. McCollough himself had excavated.”
The students visited two sites where McCollough has done excavation work, one at Sepphoris and the other at Cana. “Sepphoris is a sprawling site on top of a large hill in Galilee, containing an amphitheater, a beautiful synagogue and several villages and roadways,” Mills says. “It’s a massive excavation and is quite important for both the artifacts and extremely well preserved mosaics that were uncovered there.”
The site at Cana is much smaller. “It’s located on a hill and shows ruins from a Jewish village, complete with the synagogue foundations, ruins of a Christian settlement along with a pilgrimage cave and, at the very bottom, Dr. McCollough has uncovered the outlines of an Arab village.”
Both sites contain mikvahs, which are deep pools used at ritual baths by members of the Jewish faith.
Though only one week long, the trip was “deeply educational,” Mills says, “not only in archaeological ways but also in political and religious ways. It was amazing to see the way in which members of three major world religions interact and live together on a daily basis, each of them holding claim to a part of the land.”
She adds that it was “sobering to see some of the devastating effects that terrorism and war have had on the city of Jerusalem. Speaking to both Israelis and Palestinians also afforded me a broader view of the underlying issues that run throughout their society.”
After returning to the United States from the adventure, Mills has one piece of advice for students wishing to follow in her footsteps: “If you have the opportunity to go to Israel, take it! It’s a beautiful and fascinating country; you won’t be disappointed.”