Bethsaida from the Bible?

El-Araj is a small tell located near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and near where the Jordan River enters the lake. It is one of several sites argued to be a candidate for the site of Bethsaida mentioned in the Gospels. According to Josephus, Bethsaida was later upgraded to a polis city by Herod Phillip and renamed Julias. The commonly accepted view that et-Tell is to be identified as first-century Bethsaida has its critics, and the el-Araj excavation is an attempt to excavate what is thought by some scholars to be a more favorable site for the location of Bethsaida-Julias. Two seasons of excavation have produced remains reflecting Byzantine structures and Roman-style urbanization. It is hopeful the latter might correspond to the city of Julias built by Herod Phillip. If this is the case, then the remains of the first century fishing village of Bethsaida should be in close proximity and forthcoming. The excavations at el-Araj will contribute to the ongoing discussion regarding the location of Bethsaida-Julias.

Biblical Archaeology: From the Ground Down

How does a dig team work? What do archaeologists look for at a dig? In this documentary DVD, learn how excavators work and what we can learn from archaeology. More information.

Mordechai Aviam

Mordechai Aviam is the Director of the Institute for Galilean Archaeology.

R. Steven Notley

R. Steven Notley is Professor of Biblical Studies at Nyack College.

Dig Directors

Mordechai Aviam
R. Steven Notley

Geographic Location

Northern shore of the Sea of Galilee near the Jordan River

Periods of Occupation

Crusader, Byzantine, Roman

Dates of the Dig

June 14 – 28, 2019; June 28 – July 12, 2019

Minimum Stay

Two weeks preferred

Application Due

March 14, 2019


$2,300/two-week season — airfare not included

Academic Credit/Cost per Credit/Institution

3 credit hours awarded by Nyack College


Housing is provided at Beth Haccerem Retreat Center located in Migdal. Rooms are double occupancy with two single beds and private bath. Three meals per day are provided plus an on-site brunch at the excavation. A single room is available for an additional cost of $700. This includes one overnight in Tel Aviv and one overnight in Jerusalem.


Wink Thompson
4915 Arendell St. Suite J-222
Morehead City, NC 28557
Phone: (252) 622-4201

Open for tours