Officials today announced that the Sea of Galilee, famous in the New Testament as the location of Jesus’ ministry, has been discovered!  Reaction to the announcement was decidedly vocal in all quarters.  Evangelicals claimed that all of the Bible was hereby proven to be true.  One biblioblogger denounced the archaeologists as right-wing fundamentalists, asserting that no such body of water ever existed but the Bible is completely true nonetheless.  A Palestinian spokesman said that this is all just a plot to steal their land.  One Christian Zionist organization already had an appeal letter for funds in the mail.  60 Minutes had undercover reporters on the scene in hopes of finding an Egyptian scientist to explain how it must be a fraud.  A bulletin posted on Ron Wyatt’s website confirmed that they had already located Jesus’ footprints in the water.  The first chapter was released of a book by Robert Cornuke in which he claims that he found the footprints, just before being arrested.  Seasoned archaeologists noted wryly that great finds are always made on the last day of the season, whereas discoveries like this one are always made on April 1.

Sea of Galilee sunset from Hippos panorama, tb032807888
Sunset over Sea of Galilee from Hippos/Susita

Muslim leaders in Jerusalem today announced that they have no opposition to Israeli archaeologists excavating on the Temple Mount. Such work would be invaluable to understanding the history of one of the most sacred places in the world, and they have acknowledged that their previously-held objections are surpassed by the potential gains.

Israeli archaeologists do not have any immediate plans to excavate, but now that the invitation has been made, experts expect that the several proposals will quickly be made from leading universities.

One of those on QAWF, the Islamic committee that approved the move, denied that the Muslims feared the recovery of Jewish remains on the mount. Muhammad Husseini was quoted as saying, “We recognize that every historical source agrees that the Jewish temple was on the site of our holy mosque. Finding archaeological evidence for that building will not change history.” Another religious official, Ali Abdullah, indicated that this move was intended to show good-will. “There is no reason why we must deny the Jewish people access to their most holy place. We will be delighted if they accept our invitation to excavate and increase their understanding of their ancestors.”

Some scholars, however, are skeptical. Dr. Yosef Rosenthal suggests that the excavation will never begin, because “the Israeli people will debate the matter endlessly, and in the end, the Muslims will look magnanimous and the Jews will never move one spade of earth.”

Muslims authorities have made it clear that excavation will only be permitted outside of Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and that prayer services may not be disturbed. Israeli archaeologists are still thrilled because the large majority of the enclosure lies outside of the sacred structures.

This change of position is a most unexpected one, especially in light of recent violent protests because of an Israeli removal of an earthen ramp outside of the Temple Mount adjacent to the Jewish holy area of the Western Wall. Such a radical shift may be largely explained by the fact that today is April 1.