27days since
The 2014 Season

What You’ll Need

Here’s a handy list for your luggage and your dig-bag. I hope this will unlock some of the mysteries of dig life for you, such as, “Do they have toothpaste in the Middle East?” and, “Will I hate doing my laundry in a bucket so much that I will want to bring 50,000 socks?” As always, feel free to ask us if you’re still unsure about something I haven’t mentioned.

So—firstly, and especially if you're traveling alone, I suggest that you pick up an Israeli sim card (or an international sim) for your cell phone. You can buy the former at the airport or anywhere in Tel Aviv, and you can top up at grocery stores, etc.—but not on the campus. Keep this in mind, as you will probably run through the minimum top-up on Israeli sims (65 shekels, I believe) with text messages and Where are you?! I’m lost in the Old City and they are trying to make me buy tacky souvenirs! calls during weekends away.

It’s probably also a good idea to make sure that your phone actually works. Countless (adult!) team members have frantically approached staff for help because their home cell phone company said they unlocked their phone and set them up for international dialing, when in fact they either hadn’t done it at all, or hadn’t explained how one dials international numbers. This will be seriously frustrating for you if you need to call us, especially on your way from the airport, so please make sure you have it all sorted before you arrive. We are not cell phone experts, so the last thing you want to do is have one of us try to figure it out (we are not so good with fancy new things; that’s why we are archaeologists).

Secondly, in the name of safety, make sure that you have at least three copies of the information page of your passport with you. Put each copy in a different place (wallet, carry-on bag, etc.). You should email a scan of it to yourself, too.

Now on to the rest. What do you really need to bring to Israel, as opposed to making purchases once you’ve landed? Nowadays we all hate traveling with liquids, and every airline charges more for luggage. It’s best to be a minimalist, especially with non-clothing items. Essentials which can be found at the campus store include detergent (you can actually have the campus do your laundry for a nominal fee once per week, but many people do their own laundry), hair-care items, feminine products, bug spray, coffee, tea, toothpaste and soap. So yes, you can pretty much find any hygiene-related items you’re used to at Giv'at Haviva, and you can certainly find a wide range in Tel Aviv.

Clothing

- Sneakers with a hard toe, preferably also breathable because of the heat. Tennis shoes will do, but if you can find something more protective for your toes, you'll be better off.

- A hat you like enough to wear every day (baseball cap, sun hat, fedora, a “buff” if you want to look like a gangster…). Indiana Jones-style leather hats are very uncomfortable and will leave you sweaty and smelling like a tannery. That is my final bit of advice on the matter. Suit yourself.

- Many, many pairs of socks (as in ten or a dozen); you won't want to wash yours every day, and they will get DIRTY.

- Say about a dozen pairs of underwear. Please do not go commando.

- Shirts: We usually dig in tank-tops or t-shirts, specifically ones that are lightweight and easy to wash. You might want to pick up an Underarmour or Techwick shirt if you think you'll use it again, but you certainly don't need one. I suggest that you bring 5 or 6 dig shirts.
- Bottoms: We usually dig in khaki pants (often the ones that zip into shorts for the hotter days), cotton shorts, cargo shorts or mesh shorts. Some people dig in jeans, but be advised that it can get very hot when you wear those. Bring around 4 or 5 pairs of dig bottoms.

- A sweatshirt or light jacket—it's cold at 4:30am!
- Shoes: Definitely bring a pair of flip-flops or more rugged sandals for the pool/Dead Sea/everyday use. You really only need these and your dig sneakers, but some people like to bring a nice pair of flat shoes for days off. A note about the Dead Sea: it will eat your sandals. Generally anything that will not benefit from being soaked in salt-water (leather, foam) is not something you should be wearing in the world’s saltiest pool of salt-water.
- A bathing suit, because we are spoiled and have a swimming pool at our disposal.
- Enough clothing for lounging around after work and on weekends. Bring things you like to wear around home in the summer. You may also want to pack a nice outfit or two, because you might have dinners out on occasion, and because you'll have the weekends off to do what you like (i.e. be clean and respectable).
- If you are planning on traveling to Jerusalem, the Baha'i Gardens, Nazareth, or other religious sites, you will need to bring appropriate clothing. For ladies this is either long pants or a long (knee-length or longer) skirt and a shirt that covers your shoulders. For men it is regular pants, and sometimes also long shorts.

Snacks

- If you have room in your luggage, throw in any (easy-to-tote-around) snacks you think you'll miss from home. Quick energy and protein should be kept in mind: some of my personal favorites are beef jerky, granola bars (available on the campus) and fruit leather. If you are a coffee- or tea-drinker, you might also consider bringing a few packets of instant coffee or some tea bags for the first day, to hold you over until you can go to the campus store to stock up.

For your dig-bag

- Well, a dig-bag to bring your stuff to site. Perhaps a small backpack, waist-pack or tote. Best if it zips up, and best if you don't like it too much, because it will get dirty.

- Hand sanitizer or baby wipes, so you can have your on-site meal with clean fingers. I cannot sing the praises of baby wipes enough. They will make your day. Trust me.
- Gatorade powder or salt tablets. Anything to ensure that you won't get disinterested enough in regular water to get dehydrated. Some of us bring iced tea or lemonade mix to spice things up.
- A durable water bottle in which to put the aforesaid items. Bigger is better. Many of us have Camelbacks or Platypus bottles, but you’ll be fine with a cheapo one, so long as it doesn’t leak.

Other very important things
- Alarm clock or watch with alarm.
- A notebook and pens, especially if you’re taking one of our courses; you can actually get stationery at the campus store if you don’t want to bring it, unless you’re one of those people who insist on using a special aerodynamic pen and waterproof paper… like me. Cough.
- Sunscreen. You can get this at the campus store, too.
- 2 towels, one for the pool and one for the shower. If you can find quick-dry towels you might want to bring those, as they're much lighter and take up much less space than the regular variety.

 

Some less-important things you might want to bring anyway

- A travel mug. I know I can’t force down a whole cup of coffee at 4:15 in the morning; I like to indulge slowly on the bus while contemplating my job and asking myself why I am up at such an ungodly hour.
- Sunglasses you won't mind ruining, if you're a sunglasses person

- An mp3 player. Everyone listens to music on the way to the Tel in the morning. If you’re a Chatty McChatter on the bus when your friends are trying to squeeze in those last few precious minutes of sleep, you will get the stink eye. Best to bring your own distraction.
- A pocket multi-tool, if you have one. Useful things include the bottle opener, pliers and can opener. You will probably not need the mini saw-thing or that weirdo plastic toothpick that pops out of the side.
- If you don't want your hands to blister, you may want to bring a cheap pair of (preferably tight-fitting) gardening gloves. I actually cannot dig without them.
- A bandana, if you have one, because there are a million uses for them on site, such as de-sweating yourself when your attractive trench-mate walks by. Awesome.

- Some people feel more comfortable using knee-pads in the trench. I always bring mine along so I can lend them to another poor soul with bad knees.

- You may bring your own trowel and handpick if you own them already (NOT in your carry-on luggage!), but we are stocked and will provide you with one if you don't. Of course, if you are so attached to your trowel that you have christened it with a special name and bejeweled it on the side, by all means bring it along.

 That’s basically it. You don’t need to bring an army-size first aid kit, nor do you need body armor. But you might want to bring your favorite board game and your fuzzy slippers.

Jen Thum