By Jocelyn McLaughlin

Building Bridges

Throughout life we face many challenges that in the moment seem to be unmanageable, Tel Akko has not been an exception, but it is in these times of adversity that immense personal growth happens.

Going to another country and being emerged in their culture is the most rewarding experience to me. It has been three weeks of great experiences here at Tel Akko that overshadow what now seem like minuscule challenges that have actually added value to my experiences. Being part of the public archaeology component of Tel Akko Total Archaeology we students were tasked with working with the youth of Old Akko. On a normal basis working with youth and having them be active participants takes some encouragement, but in this case we also had a slight language barrier. Each of the kids seemed to understand some English but were on difference comprehension levels and us Tel Akko students has no knowledge of Hebrew, so even asking simple questions became complicated. Slowly we overcame this obstacle with a little friendly competition.

On the first day we all sat down for breakfast with the teens and we naturally self-segregated to different tables, one full of Tel Akko students and another full of Akko Youth. This integration process was going to be awkward and everyone was a little tense. Luckily, activities were planned that changed strangers into teammates.

Eventually we sectioned off into groups of three people and experimented with different lye-based mortars by building small stone structures. My group; Evan, Dan, and I had the ambitious plan to construct a mini arch bridge. Armed with instructions in Hebrew and English, a pile of rocks and full access to the Israel Antiquities Authority’s work room we set to task.

As each group built their structures we learned bits and pieces of information about one another. Dan was a returnee Akko participant; outgoing and always on the move. He spoke the most English of the kids so in the middle of our building process, he was often called to another group to act as an interpreter when simple questions like age, school year, and interests were answered with confused looks. It was through this slow process of building trust and understanding that we got to know each other despite having language as a barrier.

In the end, although neither group will be fluent in the other languages by the end of the dig there are so many other ways we have bonded. Selfies, music, social media, and swearing on the tel, have brought two groups, separated by language, together.