Violence Puts Archaeologists Between Rocks, Hard Places

About half of the planned excavations in the Holy Land this summer have been canceled
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More than eight months of renewed conflict between armed Palestinians and Israelis have dampened not only Holy Land tourism but also this summer's archaeological excavations. Almost daily network news reports of hostilities have raised safety questions for college students, who normally do most of the digging, and for their parents. About half of the planned excavations this summer have been canceled.

Few of the areas where major dig sites exist, however, are in imminent danger. Caesarea Philippi, also known as Banias, is in the northern Golan Heights, not far from the Lebanese border. Ashkelon, on the Mediterranean coast, and Sepphoris, near Nazareth in Galilee, are miles from areas of hostility. Yet field work at all three excavations has been scrapped for the summer.

Israeli archaeologist Ze'ev Weiss, who is in charge of the Sepphoris work, canceled the 2001 dig after receiving few applications. "I hope that the situation in Israel will improve in the coming months and that we will be able to conduct a full-scale excavation in the summer of 2002," Weiss says.

Precautionary Measures

A notice on the Web site of the Harvard-sponsored Ashkelon dig notes that the U.S. Department of State has warned American citizens to avoid travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. "After consultation with other archaeologists and upon the advice of the Harvard University General Counsel, we are at this time canceling the 2001 field season for Ashkelon," organizers say on the site.

Meanwhile, excavations at Tel Rehov, a Jordan River valley mound near Beit She'an, have been scaled back from six to four weeks.

Although the number of visitors is down—off 49 percent in February from a year ago, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics—many ...

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