As Hezbollah fired missiles into northern Israel in July, Professor of Religion Doug Edwards found himself reassuring the parents of a UPS alumna who was helping him on an archeological dig there.
“While I was on the phone with them, a rocket hit a reservoir about one kilometer from where we were living,” he recalls. “I just said, ‘Gotta go.’ And we all hurried to the bomb shelter as quickly as we could.”
Edwards and 13 others—including his 16-year-old daughter, Helen, and Shelli Dumais ’05—were at Cana, about eight miles northwest of Nazareth, continuing an excavation the professor began in 1997. The team, which included volunteers from across the country, was excavating an ancient synagogue and a cave where Christian pilgrims believed Jesus turned water into wine. (See “Cana and the Fifth Gospel,” Arches, spring 2005.)
“We were working in a valley, so the sound of the rockets and the warning sirens echoed quite a bit,” says Edwards. “I wasn’t nervous for myself as much as I was for others around me and for those who live there.”
While several other archeological sites closed during the bombing and four members of Edwards’ crew opted to leave early, this year’s dig went on—mostly—as planned.
“We didn’t have any Indiana Jones kinds of finds, but we found many things that help build a portrait of the place and how it changed over time,” he says.
This year the group thrilled at discovering two entrances to the synagogue they’re excavating. Previously they were unsure how people got into the building.
“Finding coins and even little bits of pottery is really exciting because it helps us understand the dates a building was used and how it was used.”
While he’s happy to be home, Edwards plans to continue his annual treks to the Mideast. He also feels a greater sense of responsibility as an American to encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“I have friends who live in these countries—on both sides—and that rockets are landing on their homes is beyond upsetting,” he says. “Everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, deserves the chance to live in peace.”
— Mary Boone