Israel: Ancient Galilee church unearthed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Ancient Galilee church unearthed, said to be home to apostles Peter and Andrew

Israeli archaeologist says dig at El-Araj, near Sea of Galilee, confirms it as the site of fishing village Bethsaida

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

AFP — Excavations in Israel’s Galilee have uncovered remains of an ancient church said to mark the home of the apostles Peter and Andrew, the dig’s archaeological director said Friday.

Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, said this season’s dig at nearby El-Araj confirmed it as the site of Bethsaida, a fishing village where Peter and his brother Andrew were born according to the Gospel of John.

The Byzantine church was found near remnants of a Roman-era settlement, matching the location of Bethsaida as described by the first century AD Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Aviam said.

The newly discovered church, he added, fitted the account of Willibald, the Bavarian bishop of Eichstaett who visited the area around 725 AD and reported that a church at Bethsaida had been built on the site of Peter and Andrew’s home.

According to Willibald, Aviam says, Bethsaida lay between the biblical sites of Capernaum and Kursi.

“We excavated only one third of the church, a bit less, but we have a church and that’s for sure,” Aviam told AFP.

Co-directors of the Galilee early church excavations at their recent dig site, historian Jacob Ashkenazi and archaeologist Mordechai Aviam from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret Academic College (courtesy Mordechai Aviam)

“The plan is of a church, the dates are Byzantine, the mosaic floors are typical… chancel screens, everything that is typical of a church.”

“Between Capernaum and Kursi there is only one place where a church is described by the visitor in the eighth century and we discovered it, so this is the one,” he said.

Christians recognize Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.

The Catholic Church also venerates him as its first pope.

El-Araj, known as Beit Habeck in Hebrew, is not the only candidate for the site of Bethsaida.

About two kilometers (more than a mile) away at e-Tell, digging has been going on since 1987 and according to the National Geographic website has unearthed major ninth-century BC fortifications and “Roman-period houses with fishing equipment, including iron anchors and fishing hooks, and the remains of what may be a Roman temple.”

Aviam is convinced that he and his international team, with professor R. Steven Notley of New York City’s Nyack College as academic director, are digging in the right spot.

“We have a Roman village, in the village we have pottery, coins, also stone vessels which are typical of first century Jewish life, so now we strengthen our suggestion and identification that El-Araj is a much better candidate for Bethsaida than e-Tell,” he said.

“It has been excavated for the past 32 years. We started digging two years ago because we thought it’s the better one and now we have the proofs.”

Notley, interviewed in Israeli daily Haaretz, is a little more cautious, saying the clincher will be if complete excavation of the El-Araj church reveals an inscription.

“It would be normal to find an inscription in a church of the Byzantine period, describing in whose memory it was built, for instance,” he told the paper.

1800-Year-Old Hebrew Inscriptions Discovered In Galilee Village

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS, CHANNEL #7)

1800-year-old Hebrew inscriptions discovered in Galilee village

Limestone column from Roman period engraved with Hebrew inscriptions discovered in Peqi’in during restoration work on ancient synagogue.

Contact Editor

Yoel Domb, 21/02/17 11:38

Margalit Zinati and the ancient column

Margalit Zinati and the ancient column

Ritvo, with permission from Beit Zinati

An 1,800 year old limestone capital dating to the Roman period that is engraved with two Hebrew inscriptions was discovered during the course of restoration and conservation work being carried out in the ancient synagogue and neighboring Beit Zinati visitor center at Peqiʽin, in the Western Galilee.

Pequ’in is not only a quaint village in the beautiful hills of the Galilee, it is a village that has an unbroken record of Jewish residence for over two thousand years.

The work is being conducted by the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel as part of a heritage project by the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage.

The stone was found upside down in the building’s courtyard, and upon discovery of the inscriptions archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority arrived at the site in order to examine the special find. A preliminary analysis of the engraving suggests that these are dedicatory inscriptions honoring donors to the synagogue.

According to Yoav Lerer, the IAA inspector in the Western Galilee, “The Talmudic and Midrashic sources tell of the Galilean sages that lived in Peqiʽin, including Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who hid from the Romans in a cave. However, there are those who disagree with the identification of the location of Peqiʽin. I believe that these inscriptions will add an important tier to our knowledge about the Jewish settlement in the village of Peqiʽin during the Roman and Byzantine periods”.

In the past year, rehabilitation and conservation work was carried out in Peqiʽin’s ancient synagogue and nearby Beit Zinati in order to upgrade the visitor center located there. The visitor center will tell the unbroken two thousand year long history of the Jews in the village, and the unique story of the Zinati family – the village’s oldest Jewish family. Margalit Zinati, the last member of the Jewish Zinati family to “keep the flame alive”, still resides in the house next door to the synagogue, as she has for decades.

Ze’ev Elkin, the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, said “Peqiʽin is one of the most significant sites in the Galilee, and is a place where there has always been a Jewish presence. It is a great honor for me that during my tenure in office such an important discovery has been made that tells this 2,000 year old story of the Land of Israel”.