Bethsaida flooded

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
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.

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.