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"
BUT ABSALOM FLED, AND WENT TO TALMAI, SON OF AMMIHUD,
 KING OF GESHUR.  DAVID MOURNED FOR HIS SON DAY AFTER DAY"
II SAMUEL 13:37
                                                                           

Holy Sites -- Gila's HighlightsLet's gather by Bethsaida's City Gate

It’s well known that Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter and Andrew who were called by Jesus to be fishers of men.  It’s also known that Jesus healed a blind man
at Bethsaida.  And that the disciples were rowing en route to Bethsaida when a wind whipped up the sea and Jesus came to them, appearing as a ghost, as he walked on water. (Mark 6:48)

What’s not well-known is that one thousand years earlier, David married the princess of Bethsaida, or Gishur, as the city was called during the Israelite period.  Her name was Maacah, daughter of King Talmai.  The son of this royal marriage between David and Maacah was Absalom.  After Absalom killed his half-brother Amnon, he fled to Gishur, spending three years with grandma and grandpa, before he dared return to Jerusalem.
 

Tel Bethsaida before the excavation

Courtesy of Dr. Jimmy Albright

Tel Bethsaida before the excavation began

 
I first visited Bethsaida, two miles north of the Sea of Galilee, with Father Bargil Pixner of the Benedictine order in 1991.  He had been exploring the site for 20 years already.  At that time Bethsaida was still heavily mined from the Syrian occupation before the Six-Day-War.  He told us that his trick was to walk in the tracks of the cows – they were heavier than he was.  He showed us Iron Age pottery which was scattered all about.  Father Pixner was perhaps the first to associate Bethsaida with earlier Gishur,

When Rami Arav, an Israeli archeologist now teaching at the University of Nebraska, began to dig at Bethsaida in 1987, he hadn’t dreamed that he would find the largest Iron Age gate complex in the entire country.  The city gate is well-preserved with four chambers, complete with a cultic “high place.”  Massive steles (standing stones) stood at the gate opening and one is decorated with a bull-faced warrior.
 

Bethsaida's Iron Age city gate

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Iron Gate city gate at Bethsaida

 

Bethsaida has the largest Iron Age gate discovered in Israel

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Bethsaida's city gate is the largest Iron Age gate found in Israel

 
Near an altar-shaped stone they found lots of burnt barley.  City residents could have been using the barley as an offering – or the guards could have making beer.  Perhaps that’s why the city gates were breached so easily by the Assyrians from northern Iraq.  The guards could have been stone-drunk!

Now that the eighth century BC gate complex has been revealed, the excavators are probing the earlier Iron Age gateway, dated to the tenth and ninth centuries BC.  (The kingdom of David is dated to the tenth century BC)

After excavating 13 years in the Negev, Dr. Jimmy Albright from St. Joseph,

Carbonized wheat found in Iron Age I Room

Missouri joined the dig at Bethsaida in the

Courtesy of Dr. Jimmy Albright

late 1990s.  In his words,

Carbonized wheat

 

“The Iron Age Gate is the place I feel most connected to in Bethsaida -- with its stone pavement access ramp, the guard towers and fortress walls, the Baal altar at the front gate, the gate entrance and the four guard rooms.

Because so much of my work over these years focused on this specific area, my heart always swells as I walk up the tel toward the gate, round the corner, and there before me, see that unbelievable spectacle of that gate, which we certainly had no idea even existed when we started excavating the Roman stratum above it.”

Dr. Jimmy Albright by the Iron Age city gate

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Archeologist Jimmy Albright sitting by an Iron Age guard tower

 

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Bethsaida is one of my favorite sites, cause it’s “raw” and authentic, not overly reconstructed.  I recommend that you allow enough time for a thorough visit.  We’ll read of the feeding of the 5,000 and the healing of the blind man.  We can talk about Peter who struggled with his own sense of unworthiness and failings of faith and courage.  What better place than Bethsaida, Peter's home town to dissect his character and the nature of his relationship with Jesus?

 

Reading II Samuel 13 to 19 by Bethsaida's city gate

Photo:  Silvia Hess

Retelling the story of David's rambunctious son Absalom

 

And then we’ll talk of Absalom who raised his hand against his father and perhaps consider David’s handling of his rambunctious, ambitious and revengeful son.  If you come during the summer season, I’d be happy to arrange a talk on site with Dr. Albright, whose enthusiasm for New Testament Bethsaida and Old Testament Gishur
is contagious.
 

Copyright 2008, 2009 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 

Tel Bethsaida Roman cooking pot found intact

Courtesy of Dr. Jimmy Albright

Tel Bethsaida Roman cooking pot found intact

 
Here's an unusual account of a visit to Tel Bethsaida in the 1980's before the excavation began,
 
In '86 or '87, while touring with Dale Nystrom [of IGM Tours], our bus got stuck in the mud at Bethsaida for about 3 hours.  I decided rather than getting bummed out, it was a blessing to be in the place from which Jesus called his disciples for a few extra hours -- so I went exploring, marveling at my good fortune.

The tel looked interesting.  So I stepped over the low barbed wire fence and headed off.  I was stopped by one of my fellow tourers telling me to STOP!  He was pointing to a little triangular sign from the wire fence. "Landmines!" he yelled.

Bummer.  No cow tracks, so I slowly found my own tracks in the wet winter grass and retraced my steps.

Great trip.  Great adventure.

Jay Baggett, Sacramento, California

Authentic first century AD road in Bethsaida

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

A well-preserved village road from the time of Jesus, Bethsaida

 
Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a Connecticut-born Yankee living now in King David's court, has been teaching the Bible on site for twenty-five years.  Most of all she enjoys sharing her passion for adventure in the Holy Land with like-minded pastors, teachers and students of the Bible.

Although Bethsaida was discovered by Connecticut Yankee (and biblical geographer) Edward Robinson in 1838, it hasn't yet been added to the standard itinerary of the multitudes.  Contact Gila for tips about how to include Bethsaida on your next pilgrimage with her.
 
"Let's gather by Bethsaida's city gate" (as text without the photos) is one in the series of free quarterly e-letters sent on request to tour leaders, pastors, clergy, teachers, Bible students, colleagues and friends.  If you'd like to receive "Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights" every other month, please contact Gila.  The last highlight was "Let's claim our heritage at the Temple Mount."  This month's highlight is "Let's overlook the site of Jacob's wrestling match."  The next highlight will be "Let's find the temple tax in St Peter's Fish."
 
More Biblical Archeology:
 

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's orient ourselves to Jesus' Jerusalem

Armageddon/Megiddo  

Model of Jesus' Jerusalem

Jerusalem:  Solomon's digs

     

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Let's follow Abraham all the way to DAN

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Gezer:  Solomon's dowry  

Abraham at Dan?

Joshua burning Hazor

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin