El Araj Excavations Day 19 (Week 4/Day 5). Today was the final day on the excavation site. It was a day of summations, clean up, picture taking and departures. We began the day with Motti Aviam leading us through el Araj to detail what our weeks of hard work had accomplished. We have uncovered multiple layers of human settlement and have brought to light a rich community in the Roman period. Their opulence is attested by the frescoes, bathhouses, beautifully ornamented oil lamps, and much much more. This year we demonstrated that the settlement was widespread, and not limited to a small area. This was no mean city. What began around 30 CE as Herod Philip's transformation of a Jewish fishing village into a polis, evolved over the centuries into a wealthy community. The continuity of settlement reaching back into the Roman period continues to strengthen the claim that el Araj is the best candidate for the historical site of Bethsaida-Julias. Yet, during these weeks it was not simply the past that we encountered. We made new friends. There is nothing like working side by side in the heat and dust, moving rocks, brushing ancient vessels, and laboring towards a common purpose that forges new friendships. You learn something about a person when you work alongside them. So, at the conclusion of the morning, not only did we say farewell to our squares and artifacts but also to a community that was forged out of the dust, sweat, and laughter we have experienced these past few weeks. We concluded our day with an impromptu visit to Kinneret College to see the Lioness of El Araj. Dates for the 2019 excavation season have already been set. There will be 2 two-week sessions: June 16-27 and June 30-July 11. Consider joining us! We will update new developments on FB and the excavation website: www.elarajexcavations.com. Next year in Bethsaida!