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First Semester at TAU: Highlights from the International MA Program

Posted by on Apr 4, 2013

First Semester at TAU: Highlights from the International MA Program

T.A.U., or as the students call it, Tau, is supposed to stand for Tel Aviv University, but that is a misnomer.
The campus is actually just north of Tel Aviv, in Ramat Aviv, and after a semester here I believe it more accurately stands for The Adventure University.

My journey began when I chose to do my undergrad in anthropology, but job hunting with a just a B.A. in that field is like a “Mission: Impossible”. For that reason continuing my education with an M.A. was the only reasonable option. I was lucky and found the International Program website while researching Tel Megiddo, one of Tau’s excavations, and decided it couldn’t hurt to apply. After I got accepted there was no way I could turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.

Learning from the Textbook Authors: Prof. Israel Finkelstein and Prof. Oded Lipschits

Learning from the Textbook Authors

Part of the reason I considered this the opportunity of a lifetime are the professors: some of the best known Near Eastern archaeologists in the game. Some of them wrote the textbook I used in my first archaeology class. Now I have a signed copy. I didn’t know what to expect from them as professors though. Most people have had the bad adventure of chasing a professor after class, never finding them at office hours and never receiving a reply to e-mails, but that’s the not the case here. Even though every professor here is doing his own research I haven’t met one, or even heard stories, who isn’t more than happy to take some time to answer questions and help you with anything you’re having trouble with.

Touring the Sites

Luckily, the adventures have mostly been outside the classroom. One of the first things you hear in almost archaeology class is that it’s nothing like Indiana Jones, but that’s easy to forget when you’re walking around in Beit Guvrim’s enormous cave complex or while climbing around what used to be Herod the Great’s royal swimming pool at Caesarea. When trips to archaeological sites are requirements what else can you think, but adventure.

Pottery Typology Class with Dr. Alex Fantalkin

Favorite Classes

Thus far the two classes I have enjoyed the most are Akkadian and “Reconstructing Israel: The Exact and Natural Sciences Approach”.In Akkadian, our only year-long course, we are learning the Old Babylonian dialect, and just began translating the Law Code of Hammurabi. Reconstructing Israel was special because each week we had a different topic, such as Carbon Dating or Zooarchaeology, and there was a guest lecturer who is an expert in the field. Having just started a new semester I can’t say much about the new classes, but so far our Pottery Typology class has been a lot of fun. It is great to be handling the pottery and learning how to ‘read’ it.

City Life and City Breaks

Even without classes, coming to Tel Aviv for most anyone is an adventure. It is a city that never sleeps, except for Shabbat. Most days people are out on the street until 3 a.m. and by 6 a.m. the sun is rising and it all starts again. This endless cycle of activity may help explain why one out of three shops is a coffee shop.

If city life gets too overwhelming there are great opportunities for escaping. Within Tel Aviv itself there are a large variety of beaches to choose from. Some allow pets or have lots of kids, while others are quieter (relatively) with people just relaxing in beach chairs. My personal favorite though is Gordon Beach, with lots of volleyball nets.

Of all the things I’ve found in the city, one of my favorites is the I.F.L., the Israel (American) Football League. It is an amateur league with people from age 17 to 40 something all united by a love of the game.

Another option for a quick escape is to catch a bus from the Central Station to Jerusalem where you can experience the Old City. This is probably the only inhabited place in Israel you can walk around and not hear car horns. And of course there are hundreds of archaeological sites or national parks to visit.

Having never lived in such a big city, I am finding the experience to be rather remarkable. I can walk or bike anywhere in 30 minutes, usually less. And the weather almost begs for you to be outside, which doesn’t help with the homework.

Of all the things I’ve found in the city, one of my favorites is the I.F.L., the Israel (American) Football League. It is an amateur league with people from age 17 to 40 something all united by a love of the game. Teams only practice twice a week with games usually every other week. Joining a team allowed me to make friends with a wide variety of people, from army officers to civil engineers. I hadn’t played in five years so to be able to pad up and play real, American tackle football was great.

It’s not all just fun and games, there are lots of hours spent in a library and classrooms, but even those offer their own challenges and opportunities that only enhance the feeling that I’m on the adventure of a lifetime.