• Name: Paul McLerran
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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Bethsaida, And What Lies Beneath

Excavated chamber of the Iron Age City Gate

Bethsaida, Israel – At an elevated location not far from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee lies what remains of a place identified with some of the miracles of Jesus (healing of a blind man, walking on water, and feeding of the multitudes). Birthplace of three of the Apostles (Andrew. Peter, and Philip), this site is now yielding the remains of Bethsaida, the famous town mentioned so often in the Gospels of the New Testament and, along with Capernaum, associated with the ministry of Jesus. What makes the ancient town doubly exciting, however, is what lies deeper beneath the Hellenistic/Roman layers. In 1996, while going about business as usual during the 1996 excavation season, Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, began to peal away layers that covered an Iron Age city gate complex rivaling the great city gate complexes found at other great ancient sites such as Megiddo and Hazor. The complex proved to be part of a large Iron Age city that is now identified by scholars as very likely the capital of the Kingdom of Geshur, which figured prominently in events associated with ancient Israel’s King David.

This summer, Dr. Arav will be leading a team of scholars, students and volunteers in the continuing efforts to reveal the secrets of this ancient kingdom, focusing much of the work on the Iron Age city gate complex. Along with the experience of excavating at the site, you will wash, sort and catalogue artifacts and participate in afternoon sessions designed to instruct on methods of analyzing and identifying the artifacts. Educational lectures will be offered on selected evenings. Located on the shores of the historic Sea of Galilee, you will stay in air-conditioned rooms at the Ginosar Inn at Kibbutz Ginosar, where you will have access to a swimming pool and, of course, the Sea. Hugging the shore, there is an excellent museum near the kibbutz, which houses the astonishingly well-preserved remains of a typical fishing vessel (popularly referred to as the “Jesus Boat”) that is dated to the time of Jesus. Conveniences include transportation from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at the beginning of each 3-week dig session, and comfortable bus transportation from the kibbutz to the dig site each day.

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