Monday, February 21, 2022
Bible & Archaeology (University of Iowa)

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Boaz Gross, the Director of the Tel Bet Shemesh East Salvage Excavation in Israel to discuss a variety of subjects. Gross is the Vice President of the Israeli Institute of Archaeology, the largest archaeological organization in Israel outside of the governmental Israel Antiquities Authority.

In the interview, we discuss how the archaeological salvage excavation at Tel Bet Shemesh East came about. Not only do we discuss the history of Tel Bet Shemesh, we talk about the nature of salvage excavations, the important role they play, and the difference between them and regular research excavations. It was an enlightening conversation, especially for those interested in the behind-the-scenes compromises and decisions that must be made in order to balance a growing infrastructure and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Monumental Building at Tel Bet Shemesh that is believed to be a synagogue
This monumental building, discovered during the Tel Bet Shemesh East salvage excavation, is believed to be a synagogue by the excavators. (Image credit: Israeli Institute of Archaeology)

We also talked about the many wonderful discoveries made there from each historical period, including what appears to be an early synagogue that would have never been discovered had it not been for the salvage dig done by Gross and his team. We also discuss the important role played by the local residents and the municipality of the city of Beit Shemesh. In fact, in the interview, we discuss the importance of local communities taking an active role in saving their local cultural heritage.

We conclude by talking about what the Israeli Institute of Archaeology has in store for the future, and how viewers and visitors can participate in their excavations and discoveries.