Archaeological dig by the Sea of Galilee, November, 2016

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The miracle of the swine in Matthew chapter 8 and Mark chapter 5 was considered Jesus' first miracle for non-Jews and therefore a very special event.  A large Byzantine monastery complex was built on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, in Gadarene/Gerasene territory as in the gospels. 

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Fast forward to 1948, when Jews started living in the area, which was then Syria.  4.5 miles south of the monastery & closer to the water, the Syrians kept the area mowed so combative Jews could not hide in the reeds & cause trouble.  Two Jewish men surveyed the area & found 4 ancient things. One was a stone threshold for a door, another was a very long stone breakwater (longer than Caesarea Maritima), a large stone vessel (like a giant bathtub) & half of a round stone structure coming out of the ground on the waters edge. 

In 1967, Israel took over the region/Golan Heights & started letting the reeds grow, covering the 4 ancient items. Those 2 men never forgot what they'd seen & told their story about 5 years ago to an Israeli archeologist named Haim Cohen.  Haim went to explore.  The reeds were so thick that the only way he could get in was to crawl thru the tunnels in the reeds made by wild boars.  (The swine are still there today!)  He raised some funds & had the first season of digging in the autumn of 2015.  At the end of that 6-week season, they discovered an inscription in tile near that stone door threshold.  It was a tribute to someone, indicating that the building could have been a synagogue or church--more likely a church because a synagogue wouldn't be near swine.  That inscription is at the Israel Museum today, not on display yet.

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I joined their dig for a short time.  It cost about $500 per week that covered room & board.  We stayed at En Gev kibbutz, one of the largest & oldest.  I was happy to do this because archeology fascinates me & I hadn't spent much time with Jews in my Holy Land experiences. 

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It's a lot of work to carefully dig down a couple of inches in a 2-foot square space.  Made me really appreciate all the ancient sites I've visited & the amount of work done to show antiquity.  I found several small mosaic tile pieces.  After I left, they found a mosaic tile floor, in only 3 colors--white limestone, rust oxidized limestone & black olivine.  That's a sign that it's early, i.e. first century, because it was before they started using blue, green, etc.  In addition to a few other American & European volunteers, a local Jewish high school group bussed in as part of their class & a Chinese professor with about 8 undergrad & graduate level students (some of them never out of China before) worked there too.

Here's a photo of some of the many coins that the Chinese prof & his team found in the half circle, which they decided was a pool to store fish for sale. In the photo with the dig sign (area is now called Kursi), you can see how the reeds were cut & smashed by a large bulldozer-type machine to facilitate our work, along with how close it is to the beautiful Sea of Galilee.  Other photos are the door post w/2 American volunteers, the half circle pool, us cleaning pieces of pottery in sea water then setting them out to dry on screens in the sun, my room at the kibbutz & the mosaic floor as it was just emerging.

Further info & needed donation contact info is at www.kursibeach.haifa.ac.il

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