Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gezer 2014 - Six Flags over Gezer

British Ambassador Matthew Gould speaks at Tel Gezer June 11. Photo by Brian Mooney
By Gary D. Myers

Our hearts are full tonight. Full with wonder regarding this massive and mysterious ancient water system. Full with the satisfaction that comes through diligent labor on a significant project. Full with hopes of returning to finish the quest to explain the mysteries of the system. Full with the fellowship and partnership on display tonight during the wonderful celebration at Tel Gezer.

Six Flags over Gezer
Tonight’s event was planned as grand celebration to mark the end of the Gezer Water System Expedition conducted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). Something special to conclude the initial five-year commitment. While we did finish the initial five-year commitment, task is not finished and we will have to return next year. Everyone took this in stride. The speakers, which included Tsvika Tsuk, INPA chief archaeologist; Shaul Goldstein, INPA director general; Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel; and Leora Berry, director of Israel’s Tangible Heritage Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister; and Jim Parker, executive director of the Moskau Institute for Archaeology at NOBTS, spoke with excitement about what the future holds for the dig, and ultimately, the future opening of the system to visitors. The event seemed to spark new interest in the expedition and hopefully it will spur the project along to a very successful conclusion in the next few years.

Six flags flew over the tel tonight. Each one symbolized some significant contribution in discovering and studying the Gezer water system. The flags of Ireland and Great Britain commemorated R.A.S. Macalister’s dig at Gezer in the early 1900s. The Irishman, digging with British funding provided the Palestine Exploration Fund, discovered the water system and conducted a partial excavation. The beautiful, blue and white flag of Israel, the INPA flag and the Gezer Regional Council flag were all present. Obviously, we could not be here without the support of this beautiful nation, the parks authority or the Gezer council. And of course, the stars and stripes of Old Glory were there to represent the NOBTS team and our hard work at the site. When Tsvika mentioned the “six flags” earlier in the week, we all chuckled and someone told him about the Six Flags amusement parks in the U.S. From that moment on, some of us have been referring to the celebration as “Six Flags over Gezer.”

Two Thumbs up for Mr. Gould
British ambassador Matthew Gould came to see the system for the first time tonight just before he delivered his remarks at the celebration. He was clearly impressed by the work that has gone on to clear the system and awestruck at the fact the ancient peoples crafted such a magnificent thing so long ago. We were all impressed with Mr. Gould. He was personable, taking time to meet and chat with many of our team members. Gould’s remarks were thoughtful, gracious and complimentary of all who have been involved in the project.

Dr. Parker speaks. It's that a pretty location? Photo by Brian Mooney.

Here for the Long Haul
Dr. Parker’s remarks were excellent as always. He unapologetically shared how foundational the Bible is to our faith and how we are seeking to learn about the context in which the Bible was written. Traveling here and digging here helps us better teach NOBTS students how to teach the Bible to others, he said. Parker also said that our love for Israel and its people keeps us coming back. If you come to this land and really let it in, Israel will never by too far from your heart and mind.

Parker said that NOBTS intends to finish the water system dig, but when that is complete, we will find another place to dig. In essence, Parker said NOBTS plans to participate in archaeology here for years and years to come. 

Then we ate. The food was amazing! Asi Gino, our crane operator, asked us (with a sly smile) if we would rather have our usual lunchtime sandwiches instead of this fabulous spread. He couldn't find any takers.

Until Next Year
First thing this morning, our team worked to expose as much of the floor as possible and, you guessed it, the floor stepped down again. We cleaned that area and looked for a stopping point. The digging is done for the year and we still haven’t hit the lowest point of the pool.

Tomorrow our team will sift the three remaining bags of material, wash and sort pottery and clean up the site. Final photos will be taken tomorrow morning as well.

We end this season short on conclusions. But, I for one, feel no real sense of disappointment. We have many questions to ponder over the coming year and that is a good thing. Right now, the water system at Gezer is like a giant puzzle with many missing pieces. Next year we will renew our efforts to find those missing pieces and begin to put together that puzzle. One thing is certain, when we do finish this excavation, we will have quite a story to tell. More tomorrow.


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