In honor of International Women’s Day, we came down to the City of David excavations, and among the antiquities, we discovered rare feminine strength.
Among the dozens of men working energetically to uncover the remnants of ancient Jerusalem, we met four special women who taught us a lesson in girl power. Because the labor is difficult, Sisyphean and physically demanding – excavation is primarily dominated by strongly built men.
Undaunted, Shiran, Tehilla, Ayala and Devora show up to work every morning to tackle the challenge. Meet the women behind the scenes who are uncovering ancient Jerusalem’s past!
“People are constantly asking me if I really dig, and I tell them that anyone can do it – man or woman, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has their own capabilities and can find their place in this type of work,” says Ayala Diamant (20), who works at the City of David excavations.
The women take part in the different stages of uncovering the antiquities: after the excavation, which is done using a pickaxe, the dirt that is cleared out and the various artifacts are removed. All of the excavation work is done by human hands without the assistance of mechanical tools.
After the archeological artifacts are removed from the dirt, the dirt itself is removed from the excavation area using a technique called a bucket chain. The full buckets are thrown from one excavator to the next until they are removed from the area. About 12 tons of dirt are sifted and removed every day!
“I remember when I discovered something gold during one of the excavations and it turned out to be a gold coin – that was exciting!” Devora Cohen (31) tells us. She immigrated to Israel from France and always dreamed of working at an archeological excavation site.
Work goes on in all types of weather, from the heat waves of the summer and the freezing days of winter. This may seem simple to those of us who are accustomed to working in an air-conditioned office, but try to imagine yourselves washing and sifting pottery shards in ice-cold water when the temperature outside is 6° Celsius. By the way, excavation work starts at 7 in the morning, so those who enjoy snoozing can only dream about it.
“It’s not a normal job, it’s not like working at a clothing store or as a waitress, like most of my friends do. It’s meaningful work,” says Tehilla Zamiri (23), a Jerusalem resident. “I think it’s cool that I am finding artifacts when I dig and that I’m the first person who has touched them in 2,000 years.”
Some see excavation as a life-long profession, “I always loved archaeology and was interested in the field from a young age. When I was little, the trips we took always were to historical sites,” explains Shiran Ever (25) from Efrat. “I studied Land of Israel studies in high school and during the week of excavation we did in ancient Tiberias, I understood that this is the track I want to pursue in my life. After high school, I took the psychometric exam and decided to continue pursuing archeology.”
Our meeting with the girls left a deep impression on us and as a gesture of encouragement to the City of David’s female excavators, we hosted a special photo shoot inspired by the famous poster, “We Can Do It!”
The poster was designed in 1943 by graphic designer G. Howard Millard to raise the morale of the women working during World War II. Over the years, the poster has become the symbol of feminine strength.
In 2016, the City of David’s female excavators have given new meaning to the phrase “We Can Do It.” Israeli Women Have Power! Lifting Ancient Jerusalem’s Opulent Past out of the Dust…