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Bethsaida Biblical Archaeology

Meet the Team

Interested in joining the dig, attending an event, or just learning more about Bethsaida? Contact us:

Rami Arav

Rami Arav

Director of Excavations, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at UNO

Dr. Rami Arav teaches in the Department of History and the Department of Philosophy and Religion at UNO. Biblical Archaeology, Jesus and Archaeology, Egyptian and Babylonian texts and archaeology are among his special topics courses. He is extensively published on the archaeology and history of the Land of Israel and of Bethsaida in particular. He has directed numerous archaeological excavations, including the Cave of Letters.

In 1987, Dr. Arav undertook a ten-day probe of et-Tell (literally "the mound") on the northeastern coast of the Sea of Galilee in Israel to determine if the 21-acre site was indeed Bethsaida. His conclusions were promising, but Dr. Arav knew more work must be done to reveal more of the ancient layers. In 1990, Dr. Arav founded the Consortium of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, which since then has been housed in International Studies & Programs at UNO. He continues to lead groups of students and scholars on digs every summer.

In 1996, Dr. Arava and his team uncovered the remains of an Iron Age (time of Hebrew Bible) City Gate complex at Bethsaida, which has led the scholars on a new quest - to find out more about the Iron Age city that no one expected to find underneath the Hellenistic-Roman remains. It is now believed the Iron Age Bethsaida was the capital of the kingdom of Geshur. Geshur is notable in the Hebrew Bible for its visit by King David, and his subsequent marriage to Ma'achah, the daughter of the king of Geshur. Dr. Arav's recent work has focused heavily on the Iron Age City Gate complex - one of the biggest and best preserved in the region - and its link to a previously excavated palace.

E-mail Rami Arav at

Kristy Leahy Pape

Kristy Leahy Pape

Excavations Coordinator

Mrs. Leahy Pape has been the Excavations Coordinator since January 2010; she is the primary contact for volunteer excavators, consortium members, and intstitions that would like to become involved with Bethsaida. She has also been a key organizer for the annual Batchelder Biblical Archaeology Conference, which draws students, scholars, and the general public from all over the world to discuss the latest findings in the field.

Prior to her work with Bethsaida, Mrs. Leahy Pape was a Judaics teacher at synagogues in Omaha and Marietta, Georgia. She has a bachelor's degree in Religious Studies from UNO with minors in Anthropology and Ancient History. With her unique background in education, history, and religious studies, she revels in the discoveries made at Bethsaida and the sense of wonder they inspire in the volunteer excavators.

E-mail Kristy Leahy Pape at You can also reach her by mail, phone, or fax:

Bethsaida Biblical Archaeology
International Studies & Programs
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, NE 68182-0485

Phone: 1.402.554.3108
Fax: 1.402.554.3681

Carl Savage

Carl Savage

Assistant Director of Excavations, Director of the DMIN Program at Drew University

Dr. Savage has been assisting with excavations at Bethsaida since 1997. His educational background is in biblical interpretation as well as the sociology of religion, the origins of Christianity, and archaeology. He is a registered professional archaeologist and the president of the Association of Doctor of Ministry Education (ADME). He began teaching at Drew's Theological School in the Fall of 1999. He received his A.B. in Sociology and Religion from Princeton University, his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and his M.Phil. from the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University. He has published Biblical Bethsaida: An Archaeological Study of the First Century CE (Lexington Books, 2011) and numerous research articles on Bethsaida, geoarchaeology, and religious interpretation.