Here’s an announcement of competitive and fun bike rides next week:

An invitation to residents, riders, visitors….

Come watch Israeli’s top Competitive Road-racing Cyclists compete in Beit Shemesh! Races begin at 7:00 am; Elite long-distance riders start at 10:30 a.m.

Then, take advantage of closed roads for a Public Ride – fun for the whole family! (6.5 km).

WHEN: Friday, July 21st

To register, go to www.bikeisrael.com and click on the Tour de Beit Shemesh banner at the top
of the page (the banner is in Hebrew). Enter each registrant separately.

COST: 30 NIS per person until July 18th. (Special rates for more than 4 family members.) All pre-registered riders (by July 18th) receive a bottle of water, t-shirt, medallion, and certificate of participation.

Riders who do not pre-register may register at the race site on the day of the race. Cost is 40 NIS (but does not include t-shirt, certificate, or a medal.)

Payment for ALL riders is on-site (next to the Beit Shemesh Memorial for Fallen Soldiers on Sderot Ben Gurion, across from the Fire Station), from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. All riders (pre-registered and unregistered) must check-in before 11:15 am.

Riders under 12 MUST be accompanied by an adult rider. All riders MUST wear helmets.

Competitive riders (ICF insured and with completed health permit), should go to www.shvoong.co.il for more information.

Middle Bronze gate, Beth Shemesh, January 2006

With all of the rockets falling, I was wondering how the Hazor excavation team was getting along. Several of my friends are digging there, but I hadn’t heard from them and a check on one of their blogs revealed nothing. Today part of the team showed up where I live and so I got a report.

They were digging away at 8:30 Thursday morning when they heard some loud noises and saw plumes of smoke about a mile south of the tell. The excavation director decided that they should take an “early second breakfast” and by the end of that, they were headed back to the hotel to grab some things. They spent the night in Tiberias, which today has been hit a number of times as well. There is no word yet on whether digging will proceed next week, but I’ll tell you – not a chance. Not necessarily because of real danger, but because of liability. In the case of Hazor, the complete lack of guidance system on these Hezbollah missiles hurts the excavators. If the terrorists could aim the things, they surely wouldn’t be aiming for a tell (and one of the Palestinians’ ancestors, to hear the late Yassir Arafat tell it).

As far as excavation results, this season seems to have been much better than last. There are some good finds particularly coming out of Area M (map here). Unfortunately, unlike Tel Gath, I don’t know of anything online about this year’s excavation.

Hazor Area A, May 2006

The ancient “church” at Megiddo is slated to be opened to tourists next spring, reports Haaretz. Within 4 years the prison itself should be entirely relocated so that the site can become a “tourist center.” I think they might be over-estimating the site’s importance with plans such as these:

The building in which it is located, which dates back to the British Mandate, will be turned into a center for tourists interested in ancient Christianity and the nearby airfield will be expanded to allow for pilgrim flights.

Do they really think that pilgrims are going to fly in just because they found an old “church”? 

Wouldn’t Christians find slightly more interesting things places like, oh, the synagogue at Capernaum, the well of Jacob near Sychar, or the Mount of Olives?

Of greater interest is some new information on the “church” itself, and its date:

The oldest known Christian prayer sites date back to the middle of the fourth century, but experts who have visited the Megiddo site believe it goes back to the start of that century.

The date is based on shards and coins found at the site, as well as three Greek inscriptions on the mosaic floor of the church.

The Antiquities Authority describes the site not as a church but as a “prayer house” since it was apparently located inside a Roman officer’s private home, according to one of the inscriptions. Christianity became a legal religion in the Roman empire in the year 313.

Other findings that are indicative of early Christian rites are the central symbol of the fish, found in the mosaic, (later changed to a cross) and the fact that in one of the inscriptions, Jesus is referred to as “the lord Christos,” a term which later disappeared.

So it’s no longer a “church” but a Christian home. That sounds like sufficient reason to expand the airport.


For some years, Americans and other foreigners were afraid to come to Israel. Now that the calm has returned (ha, ha), they have come back. Among the projects, the Philistine city of Gath is being currently being excavated primarily by Israelis, and the Israelite city of Gezer was excavated in June primarily by Americans.

The Gath team has done something extraordinary in maintaining an excavation blog. You should follow along with them if you want to know the latest. If you haven’t checked in a few days, then you don’t know that they found an ostraca (inscribed potsherd) on their first day of digging!

The first season of the Gezer excavations concluded successfully and director Steven Ortiz is interviewed about the results by the Book and the Spade radio program. Among other things, he discusses his discovery of thick destruction layer that may be dated to the destruction of Siamun (1 Kings 9:16). That interview may only be online for a few days, so don’t wait if you are interested.

Back to the “calm situation,” the reality in Israel is that it is always on the edge of some turmoil. That is life here. When you live in the midst of Arab enemies (and yes, even those who have made peace with Israel still hate her), times of stability are brief. Should that affect one coming to tour Israel or to participate in a dig? Absolutely not. Tour operators and excavation directors know where it is safe and they won’t take their people to dangerous areas. CNN makes you think that all of Israel is in upheaval, and that is one of the ways that the media lies.


BiblePlaces now speaks French. It’s taken about a year and the heroic efforts of Mr. Philippe Viguier, but BibléLieux is now ready to share the best photos and descriptions of biblical sites to readers in France, Algérie, Bénin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Cap vert, Centrafrique, Comores, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d’ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinée, Guinée-Bissau, Guinée-Equatoriale, Haiti, La Réunion, Les Seychelles, Madagascar, Maurice, Mali, Maroc, Mauritanie, Monaco, Niger, République démocratique du Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Suisse, Tchad, Togo, Tunisie and Québec.

If you’re a French speaker, hop on over and explore the biblical world.

If you’re an English speaker, you can do one of the following:

  1. Practice your French and see beautiful pictures at the same time.
  2. Tell all of your Canadian, African and French friends about it.
  3. Take a few minutes to learn something (in English) about a biblical site that you don’t know much about, such as Aphek, Edom, Laodicea, or the Nahal Besor.