Biblical village of Bethsaida ‘where Jesus fed the 5,000’ is UNDERWATER as floods in Israel force archaeologists to abandon the excavation site

  • Bethsaida is described as the location of at least two of Christ’s biblical miracles
  • Experts have argued that it lies at the El-Araj site located near the Sea of Galilee  
  • However, flooding has forced further excavations and research to be stopped
  • The flood — on a scale not seen in 30 years — will likely halt work for the year

The place ‘where Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000’ has been totally submerged by flooding, forcing archaeologists to abandon the excavation site.

Bethsaida — hometown to disciples Andrew, Peter and Philip — was reputedly where Christ performed the miracles of feeding the multitude and helping a blind man see.

Archaeologists have been working to prove that the lost ancient town once stood at El-Araj, an excavation site on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

However, their efforts have ground to a halt after heavy rains caused the Sea of Galilee — also known as Lake Kinneret — to flood the site.

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The place ‘where Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000’ has been totally submerged by flooding, forcing archaeologists to abandon the excavation site. Pictured, the flooded El-Araj site

Bethsaida — biblical hometown to disciples Andrew, Peter and Philip — was reputedly where Christ performed the miracles of feeding the multitude and helping a blind man see. Pictured, flooding has halted efforts to prove that El-Araj is the true site of Bethsaida

THE BIBLICAL MIRACLES OF BETHSAIDA

Bethsaida — the biblical hometown to disciples Andrew, Peter and Philip — was reputedly where Jesus performed a number of miracles.

These included the feeding of the 5,000, in which Christ — following the death of John the Baptist — used five loaves and two fishes supplied by a boy to feed a crowd of his followers. 

The Gospel of Mark, meanwhile, tells of a blind man of Bethsaida whose sight was restored after two blessings from Jesus. 

Pictured, the feeding of the multitude

Lead archaeologist Moti Aviam of Kinneret College said that there was no way digging could continue this year.

‘During the past 30 years, the amount of the rain in Israel was not enough to bring the lake to its full capacity,’ he said.

‘This year it happened. All of our excavated squares, even the highest — the mosaic floor of the Byzantine church — were covered.’

‘The entire site is covered today with a large lagoon in which catfish are swimming.’

‘We think that nothing will happen to the antiquities below the water and the water level will reduce slowly, but we will not be able to dig this year.’

‘Even if the level of the water drops 80 centimetres [31.4 inches], we will still have to walk and work in mud. It is impossible.’

After the rains, Professor Aviam said that he had expected some flooding, but was surprised by its extent.

‘I was thinking about the fact it would be flooded, but when I came to see it with my own eyes I was astonished!’ he said.

‘Especially when I got the photos from the drone.’

 In the Bible, Bethsaida — a name which translates as ‘house of fishing/hunting’ — is described as a ‘village’ with ‘green grass’ that can be reached by boat.

El-Araj is one of two sites usually identified by archaeologists as the ancient settlement — the other being Et-Tell.

But for Professor Aviam, the former is clearly the better contender.

‘El-Araj is on the lake shore, not like Et-Tell which is two kilometres inland. This is more appropriate for a fishing village,’ he explained.

Professor Aviam believes that the case for El-Araj is further helped by the writings of the Roman historian Titus Flavius Josephus.

Josephus described the village as being close to where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee.

He also wrote about how, under Herod Philip II, the village was ‘advanced unto the dignity of a city, both by the number of inhabitants it contained and its other grandeur’.

 Archaeologists efforts at El-Araj have ground to a halt after heavy rains caused the Sea of Galilee — also known as Lake Kinneret — to flood the site

Bethsaida — hometown to disciples Andrew, Peter and Philip — was reputedly where Christ performed the miracles of feeding the multitude and helping a blind man see. The latter miracle is depicted here in this painting by Gioacchino Assereto

Lead archaeologist Moti Aviam — pictured here checking the depth of the water which has flooded the El-Araj site said that there was no way digging could continue this year

‘During the past 30 years, the amount of the rain in Israel was not enough to bring the lake to its full capacity,’ Professor Aviam said. ‘This year it happened. All of our excavated squares, even the highest — the mosaic floor of the Byzantine church — were covered’

Professor Aviam says El-Araj not only matches the location, but it even shows signs of the enlarged Roman settlement Josephus describes.

‘The location of El-Araj is more appropriate according to the Josephus Flavius description,’ he said.

‘We also discovered evidence of a Roman-type bathhouse which is more typical to an urban sphere than a village. Nothing like that was found at Et-Tell.’

There’s even a Byzantine church at the site, which Professor Aviam and his team believe is the Church of the Apostles.

According to Christian tradition, this church was built in Bethsaida over the home of Jesus’ disciples Peter and Andrew.

‘The entire site is covered today with a large lagoon in which catfish are swimming,’ Professor Aviam (pictured here at the site before the flood) said. ‘We think that nothing will happen to the antiquities below the water and the water level will reduce slowly’

‘Even if the level of the water drops 80 centimetres [31.4 inches], we will still have to walk and work in mud. It is impossible,’ said Professor Aviam. Pictured, part of the excavation site seen here before flooding made work untenable

In the Bible, Bethsaida — a name which translates as ‘house of fishing/hunting’ — is described as a ‘village’ with ‘green grass’ that can be reached by boat. Pictured, the El-Araj excavation site prior to the flooding

El-Araj, pictured here before the flood, is one of two sites usually identified by archaeologists as the ancient settlement — the other being Et-Tell. But for Professor Aviam, the former is clearly the better contender. ‘El-Araj is on the lake shore, not like Et-Tell which is two kilometres inland. This is more appropriate for a fishing village,’ he explained

Professor Aviam believes that the case for El-Araj is further helped by the writings of the Roman historian Titus Flavius Josephus. Josephus described the village as being close to where the River Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee. He also wrote about how, under Herod Philip II, the village was ‘advanced unto the dignity of a city, both by the number of inhabitants it contained and its other grandeur’

Ironically, professor Aviam believes that it was probably flooding that caused the site to be abandoned in the first place.

‘We can only assume that during the third century AD the level of the lake was slowly getting higher and the land, the floors, and the courtyards were wet, so people decided to leave,’ he said.

‘Floods came with the Jordan river and covered Bethsaida with two metres of silt.’

‘It was only in the sixth century that Christians identified the spot as Bethsaida, the home of the apostles, and built a church to commemorate them.’

Archaeologists have been working to prove that the lost ancient town of Bethsaida once stood at El-Araj, an excavation site on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee

After the rains, Professor Aviam said that he had expected some flooding, but was surprised by its extent. ‘I was thinking about the fact it would be flooded, but when I came to see it with my own eyes I was astonished!’ he said. ‘Especially when I got the photos from the drone’

Ironically, professor Aviam believes that it was probably flooding that caused the site to be abandoned in the first place. ‘We can only assume that during the third century AD the level of the lake was slowly getting higher and the land, the floors, and the courtyards were wet, so people decided to leave,’ he said. ‘Floods came with the Jordan river and covered Bethsaida with two metres of silt.’ ‘It was only in the sixth century that Christians identified the spot as Bethsaida, the home of the apostles, and built a church to commemorate them’

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