In south-western Syria, there is a region called Golan Heights, which has a political and strategic significance. Many people might have heard this name due to the recent airstrike but, the same region also has a historical aspect, as the Golan Regional Council said Sunday, July 8 that a group of archaeologists have discovered the gate to the biblical city of Zer.
As per the Bible, Zer was one of the fortified cities in the territory of the Israeli tribes, Naphtali. In a New Testament, the city is addressed as the living place of Jesus and it also mentioned that in this fishing village, he fed a huge amount of people only with five loaves and two fish.
Despite the present scenario of that region, 20 archaeologists, from all over the world, including the director of this project, Dr Rami Arav started their search for the lost city in two different areas of Bethsaida, under the auspices of the Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post, after two weeks of excavation now the researchers stated that the wealth, fortification and other materials indicate that Zer was not only a biblical city but it was one of the major cities during that era.
The director of this project, Arav said "There are not many gates in this country from this period," and Bethsaida was the name that was used during the Second Temple Period, which lasted between 530 BCE and 70 CE. But, during the First Temple Period, it renamed as the city of Zer. In addition, the archaeologist also mentioned Joshua 19:35, which says. "The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinnereth."
Almost 30-years ago the lead researcher Arav started the excavation at the archaeological site Et-Tell in the West Bank on behalf of the University of Nebraska and during that project, he identified the ancient Bethsaida. Later, masses of Christian pilgrims visited the site to see the discoveries as the place holds a great importance in Christianity.
However, after discovering many remains from various periods in Bethsaida, the next research took place in the northeast of the Sea of Galilee that known as Jordan Park area. The director of that park, Avi Lieberman, later said that the park staff and the Golan Tourism department "are happy for the tens of thousands of visitors who visit the park every day. The wonderful park is also an impressive archaeological site. I amazed each time by the arrival of thousands of evangelical visitors to Bethsaida. I am confident that the latest discoveries will bring more visitors to the park from around the world and from Israel."
The archaeologists also discovered a floor of Roman temple, which was supposedly built by Herod's son Philipa and as per the experts he dedicated this temple to the Roman Emperor Augustus' daughter, Julia.
Over the years, excavators have discovered coins, house keys, beads, jugs and a shield of a Roman soldier. Among all the findings, there are 12 coins that dated back to 35 BCE has a special historical significance as these were created due to the arrival of Pharaoh Cleopatra and her husband Roman politician Mark Antony. A few years ago, excavators also discovered a gold coin that has a portrait of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled between 138 and 161 CE.
However, such findings made Golan Heights as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. But, considering the political temperature and airstrikes on the country and its neighbourhood, there is an uncertainty about securing such historical sites.