Turning the Soil - Reuniting With the Past: A Digger's Tale

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David Brummer

David Brummer reminisces about his time digging at the City of David excavations

The light of Jerusalem has cleansing qualities – she filters one’s blood and thoughts.”
Saul Bellow
Digging in the soil of the City of David, Ancient Jerusalem, brought home a deep meaning and emotion of what it was to be part of Jerusalem’s story. Yom Yerushalayim allows us to maintain that 3,000+-year connection with our heritage, every strike of the earth with the pickaxe the opening of another seam, allowing the earth to breathe, to speak. With every bucket of earth filled, with every shard of ceramic or pottery or piece of colored glass collected, an amulet, a trinket recovered, we helped weave Jerusalem’s mystical tapestry, enhancing our understanding of the fabric and rhythm of its life.
I would walk through the shuk in the early morning on my way to work, all the doors of the vendors stores shuttered tight. The sunlight would percolate through the roofs and awnings, with stray beams lighting the stone floor ahead. I was walking where generations of others had stepped before me and not only that, I would be helping to unearth millennia of Jerusalem’s buried secrets. 
On the descent to Ir David I would continue on my path through the old city. If I pressed my ear against the wall, it felt like I could hear the voices of the past, whispering to me, encouraging me to unearth the city’s past, reveal her secrets. Finally, through the gate I was able to see into the valley below, the warren-like streets, the compact housing – and off to the side, the dig site, the stone structures, made of much smaller stones than the imposing city walls above, and the temporary sandbag walls, delineating different areas, and used as an archeological guide to help identify what was found, and where.
With tools in hand, a large pickaxe to disturb the soil, a small one for less agricultural blows, a small trowel for more delicate work, often used when finding potential walls, or stones lying flat in the grand, a hoe for pulling the earth and a brush, it was time to start the day. Oh, and there were buckets, lots and lots of buckets. Buckets for the earth, buckets to put random shards into and buckets in which to put interesting finds.
It’s impossible to have dug Jerusalem’s earth and not feel a kinship with this ground, as though working on it and feeling it on your hands allows its essence to seep through your skin and work its way into your blood. It becomes a part of you and in a tactile, emotional and visceral way allows one to connect to generations past. Working on that soil provides a sense of belonging, of ownership, a palpable feeling of having come home – and knowing that only 50 years ago it would not have been possible to do so reinforces that sense of wonderment so inherent in Jerusalem’s story.
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