One of the challenges of archaeology is that the ancient remains cannot speak. As much as we learn about the ancient walls, floors, or artifacts, we only grasp a fragment of the humanity of a place. In Grid 92, we had the rare treat to excavate remains and then hear the rest of the story from someone who lived in them. Just below the surface, we uncovered the remains of Irgun Shimron, a small settlement from the 1930’s. From teapots and tin plates to bullets and bottles, we uncovered the story of the young people who called Tel Shimron home for a time. This is a typical archaeological story. But, last week, we were fortunate enough to have one of the original residents bring that chapter of Tel Shimron's history to life.
And not just any resident, we met one of the luminaries of Israel’s history. Ruth Dayan, 100 years young, was born in Haifa and grew up in London. Ruth didn't stay in England, however, and she moved to Nahalal to attend the agricultural school (this is the place that we are staying in today). She lived on Tel Shimron in 1935 where she and her then husband Moshe Dayan (Israel's 5th Minister of Foreign Affairs) lived in the area we now call Grid 92. Her job, along with other residents, was to plant trees on the hills to the east.
She shared many stories with us including one that highlighted her free spirit. As it happened, many of the other residents were from Russia and thought it unseemly for farmers' wives to be barefoot. This never stopped Ruth who always ran barefoot throughout their community, unmindful of such strictures.
Ruth Dayan went on to be a social activist founding a fashion and decorative arts house that provided jobs for new immigrants as well as establishing a Jewish-Arab social club, Brit Bnei Shem (Ibaa Sam). She also supported women's causes as well as Bedouin rights.
It was a privilege to host Ruth, to tell her of what we had found in her old home, and to have her share her own stories which serve to make our discoveries all that more meaningful.