About Beth Alpert Nakhai

Beth Alpert Nakhai

Beth Alpert Nakhai is an Associate Professor in the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and an affiliated member of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at The University of Arizona in Tucson. She teaches courses in archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Near Eastern history and the lives of women in ancient Israel. She received her M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Arizona. Her publications focus on the lives of women in antiquity, and on Canaanite and Israelite religion and culture. Her books include Archeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel and two edited volumes, The Near East in the Southwest: Essays in Honor of William G. Dever and The World of Women in the Ancient and Classical Near East. In addition, she lectures widely and is the author of numerous articles. She co-directed the Tell el-Wawiyat (Israel) Excavation Project. Professor Nakhai also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Schools of Oriental Research as well as on the editorial boards of several professional journals. She chairs a session on gender for the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research and on religion for the Society of Biblical Literature.

Presenter at

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019
Ecce Feminae: The Story of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Sion, the Ratisbonne Brothers, and the Exploration of Jerusalem’s via Dolorosa

Two mid-19th century Jewish brothers from Strasbourg, Alphonse and Théodore Ratisbonne, converted to Catholicism and founded a French religious order. In Jerusalem, they established the Convent of the Sisters of Sion on the Via Dolorosa, the Convent of St. John in Ein Kerem, and the Ratisbonne Monastery in Rehavia. The Convent nuns ran girls’ schools and orphanages. Two of them, Sister Marie-Godeleine (1879-1960) and Sister Marie-Aline de Sion, Ph.D. (1911-1971), made important archaeological contributions, focusing on the Arch of Ecce Homo and the Lithostrotos, which tradition holds is where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus, and on Herod the Great’s Antonia Fortress. Sr. Marie-Godeleine also ran the Convent school, while Sr. Marie-Aline was a tireless advocate for interfaith dialogue. They are, however, virtually unknown to archaeologists. The Sisters of Notre Dame of Sion and others have generously shared archival materials which, together with published reports, have enabled me to reconstruct the rich story of these two exceptional women.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
Jerusalem’s Women: Life in Israel’s Capitol City

While men’s contributions to ancient Israelite and Judaean society (1000-587 BCE) are increasingly well understood, less is known about women’s lives. Furthermore, recent studies of women have focused on the relatively homogeneous lives of women in the rural hinterland, looking at their roles at home, in the fields, and in domestic religion. Today’s talk approaches Israelite women from a different vantage point, that is, from Jerusalem, the capital city. What did women do in Jerusalem, a city which, more than anyplace else, incorporated people from a wide range of social classes and professions? This presentation examines the women of Jerusalem, women among the elite and among the workers, women who were privileged and women who facilitated those privileged lives. The Hebrew Bible places Jerusalemite women in a variety of life settings. The archaeological record, too, reveals much of interest. In tandem, these resources facilitate a robust discussion of women in ancient Israel’s capital city.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Seriously? Why Has It Been So Hard to Learn about Women in Ancient Israel – and What Can We Do about It?

The land of Israel is the world’s most thoroughly excavated, and the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is the lengthiest and best-preserved text from Near Eastern antiquity. Even so, our knowledge of women’s lives in Iron Age Israel (1200-587 BCE) is limited. Some of the complicating factors are typical in the field of ancient Near Eastern studies, while other are unique. The Hebrew Bible is exceptionally complex, containing many different kinds of materials that were written, compiled and edited over the course of nearly a millennium. Its text is unapologetically androcentric and elitist, crafted to express the relationship between Yahweh and his people Israel and not to serve as a work of sociological or historical value. It is sacred canon for three world religions, a factor that can complicate scholarly engagement with the Bible as a witness to antiquity. Additional challenges include methodological problems relating to the use of ethnographic studies of “pre-modern” societies as comparisons for biblical narratives and archaeological data, and the paucity of contemporary non-biblical texts. This talk considers the impact that these factors have for the study of women in Iron Age Israel and presents some thoughts about fruitful modes of future inquiry.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XVI, November 22 – 24, 2013
Daily Life in Biblical Israel

Even with its focus on matters of religion, the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament offers us glimpses into the everyday lives of ancient Israelites. We read about shepherds and farmers, weavers and potters, builders and bakers, all working in the stunning landscape of the Promised Land. Archaeology, too, gives us insights into daily life in the Iron Age and these are essential for “fleshing out” the Biblical stories. In this presentation, we will look at “Daily Life in Biblical Israel” and in doing so, gain important information about the real life of the people who are at the heart of the Bible.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XV, November 16 – 18, 2012
Everyday Religion: How Ancient Israelites Really Worshipped

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a top-down text—and a rather idealized one, at that. It tells us how Israel’s elite worshipped—or at least offers an idealized vision of how they should have worshipped. But, one wonders, what about the common people? What did they believe? How did they practice their religion? Where did they go to celebrate community festivals and more personal joys and sorrows? The Bible contains tantalizing clues, but it is archaeological evidence that truly helps us understand these ancient people, whose lives comprised the heart and soul of the Israelite experience.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XIV, November 18 – 20, 2011
Rethinking Israelite Women: What Does Archaeology Teach Us?

The Hebrew Bible is filled with stories about women, but no single story provides a complete picture of women’s lives, nor is any Biblical woman meant to be typical of all Israelite women. Archaeology provides an alternate resource—one that allows us to go beyond the Bible and examine day-to-day life in Iron Age Israel. It brings us into villages and homes, and shows us the dishes and tools, shrines and figurines, workplaces and tombs—all evidence of the sphere of the daily life. This presentation uses archaeological resources to explore the lives of Israelite women, helping us place to the Biblical narratives into their ancient setting.

Selected Articles by Beth Alpert Nakhai