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Archaeologists Uncover Biblical Gate in Bethsaida

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Biblical Gate in Bethsaida
he inner gate floor from the 11th-10th century BCE discovered in 2018 at the ongoing excavations at Bethsaida (Source, Times of Israel)
Archaeologists Uncover Biblical Gate in Bethsaida

Archaeologists in Israel say they’ve uncovered the entrance gate to Zer, a Biblical city from the Old Testament they say was later known as Bethsaida in the New Testament.

The 10th century BCE Galilee city gate through which King David may have walked to claim a bride was uncovered at the recently finished 2018 season of the Bethaida Excavations Project, excavation director Prof. Rami Arav told The Times of Israel.

Zer is mentioned in Joshua 19:35 as one of the fortified cities for the people of Naphtali, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The verse reads: “The fortified cities are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth …”

Standing at 3 meters, “it is the largest and the best preserved city gate [in Israel],” said Arav.

“Likewise, this year’s excavation provides evidence that Bethsaida, an Aramean settlement, houses one of the earliest towers incorporated in city walls in Israel.

“In the entire archaeology of the Land of Israel from 10-8th century BCE, there are no towers on city walls. Israelites did not have this feature. This is the first example of towers surrounding a city in Israel,” he said.

Located north of the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida is famously known as the site of Jesus’s miracle of the loaves and the fishes, as recounted in the Gospels of John and Matthew.

Thousands of years earlier, however, Arav hypothesized, it may have been called Tzer (mentioned only once in antiquity, in Joshua 19:35), and was the historical capital of the biblical settlement of Geshur.

The excavation is located in the Bethsaida Valley Nature Reserve and headed by Arav, professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who has excavated the site since 1987.

He is the head of the Consortium of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, which consists of scholars from 20 international institutions. This year’s dig was sponsored by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

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