El-Araj is a small tell located near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and near where the Jordan River enters the lake. It is one of several sites argued to be a candidate for the site of Bethsaida mentioned in the Gospels. According to Josephus, Bethsaida was later upgraded to a polis city by Herod Phillip and renamed Julias. The commonly accepted view that et-Tell is to be identified as first-century Bethsaida has its critics, and the el-Araj excavation is an attempt to excavate what is thought by some scholars to be a more favorable site for the location of Bethsaida-Julias. Four seasons of excavation have produced remains of a Byzantine church and Roman-style urbanization. It is hopeful the latter might correspond to the city of Julias built by Herod Phillip. If this is the case, then the remains of the first-century fishing village of Bethsaida should be in close proximity and forthcoming. The excavations at el-Araj will contribute to the ongoing discussion regarding the location of Bethsaida-Julias.
Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee near the Jordan River
Crusader, Byzantine, Roman
Two weeks preferred
3 credit hours awarded by Nyack College
Housing is provided at Beth Haccerem Retreat Center located in Migdal. Rooms are double occupancy with two single beds and private bath. Three meals per day are provided plus an on-site brunch at the excavation. This includes one overnight in Tel Aviv and one overnight in Jerusalem.
Mordechai Aviam is the Director of the Institute for Galilean Archaeology.
R. Steven Notley is Professor of Biblical Studies at Nyack College.