Connecting texts and ideas to sites, relics and the ancient past
Annual Mandel Scholion research field trip invites dialogue between interdisciplinary research groups
Thirty researchers, junior and senior, and staff of the Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies of the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University went on a two day research field trip in the Carmel region.
This year’s trip focused on the cultural and economic aspects of life in cities and villages during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The first day included visits to the remains of the ancient city of Caesarea, the Shuni archeological site, and the excavations in the Ramat Hanadiv nature park - agricultural installations at Horvat 'Eleq and a fortified estate manor at Horvat 'Aqav. The second day was spent visiting the remains of the ancient village of Rakit, as well as the ancient Jewish cemetery of Beit Shearim.
Prof. Ze’ev Weiss from the Department of Archaeology, a member of the Scholion research group “On Religions of Place and Religions of Community,” who led the trip, along with Dr. Uzi Leibner, a post doctoral fellow at Scholion, explains that it was intended “not just for the sake of visiting archaeological sites, but rather, as an intellectual experience during which texts relating to the sites would be studied.”
The subsequent discussions gave participants from diverse disciplines the opportunity to introduce each other to different methods of thought. He notes that “going out into the field with a diverse group of people created a very special dialogue among the researchers. Each one brought a different view into the discussions and came away with something new. Studying the texts on-site and then discussing those exposed participants to new ways of looking at and understanding texts.”
Prof. Weiss cites, as an example, texts that the group studied in Caesarea about incidents that occurred there thousands of years earlier. While he presented the texts as historical records about the local culture, Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem from the field of Hebrew Literature presented the same texts as stories rather than actual events that occurred. The ensuing dialogue about the differences between reality and literature enabled the scholars to understand the texts “in a new and different way.” Prof. Hasan-Rokem noted that she “was able to see the historical aspects of the text for the first time.”
“The entire experience,” notes Prof. Weiss, “is what Scholion is all about. The interdisciplinary approach of the research center, which brings scholars from various fields together in order to study and deliberate, exposes them to new ways of thinking and provides for a very special dialogue amongst diverse thinkers.”
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