Diggers arriving at Tel Aviv – Susan (Welch) Earle on left with friends.
The Diggers of 1970, Susan (Welch) Earle second row middle next to girl with glasses.
Diggers gather for a well-earned lunch break.
Students On the Temple Mount – in 1970 you could visit inside the Dome of the Rock.

‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today…’

By Neil Earle

Fifty years ago today I was in Jerusalem Israel with 70 fellow volunteer “diggers” from Ambassador College’s three campuses in Pasadena, CA, Big Sandy, Texas and Bricket Wood, UK.

We were there as part of an archeological arrangement with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem between the two institutions. The site would be the Temple Mount Dig conducted by the preeminent Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar.

Needless to say it was the experience of a lifetime. Doubly so because I met a fetching young redhead from Memphis TN named Susan Welch who became – in due time – my wife.

Hundreds of people around the world were to have that experience from 1969 to 1976 and in the end Ambassador Diggers ended up excavating the Huldah Steps outside the Crusader Wall on the Temple Mount (trodden by Jesus, Peter and John – Acts 3:1); we found a pillar with an inscription dedicated to Emperor Vespasian probably by his son Titus, conqueror of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Susan’s Diary

The history changed our lives forever but so did the experience of interacting with 70 young students from all around the world that made up the Ambassador Colleges at that time. (NOTE: The college/university as an institution closed in 1997 but there is still an online Ambassador College of Christian Ministry based in Australia.)

My wife took a lively diary with pictures. Here are some excerpts:

June 17, 1970: “This morning we went to the Dig site for a tour with Mr. HWA and Prof. Mazar…Mr. HWA never came so Prof Mazar showed us around. Next we saw the Dome of the Rock then walked the Old Jerusalem for shopping at the money changers along the way…

3:30 Went sight-seeing in Jerusalem – Golgotha, Solomon’s Quarries (where stones were cut out for the temple – some as massive as 14 feet) the Garden Tomb and the King’s Tombs where a very enterprising Jew rented candles…

7:30 PM Left for reception at Youth center. The entertainment consisted of singing and dancing…Afterwards we had refreshments and a chance to do the folk dance ourselves…”

The next few days we were whisked off for a tour of Israel itself beginning with Tel Aviv and then points North. After that we were pretty much welded together for the rest of the summer…Americans, Brits, Canadians, Belgians, Australians, Swiss, and Irish.

We did pretty good. After the summer ended Dr. Mazar was so impressed with us he said, “If all Americans are like you I can see why the United States beat Russia to the moon!”

The moon landing was just the year before of course and even we non-Americans accepted the spirit of the tribute.

Even after 50 years my wife and I still occasionally think about “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Will we make it? Stay tuned.

For all photos, click to enlarge.