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King University News :: 2015 Trip Planned for Archaeological Expedition at Tel Azekah in Israel; Expedition open to King University students, alumni, and community

BRISTOL, Tenn., Aug. 15, 2014 –We are excited to announce that the Department of Philosophy and Religion at King University is once again hosting next summer’s extended trip to Israel. Participants will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of a biblical archaeological expedition at Tel Azekah in Israel. The trip will be open to all King students and alumni as well as members of the community.

The rare opportunity to participate in the Israeli-German led Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition is made possible through King University’s membership in an exclusive consortium of more than a dozen international universities and colleges. King University was accepted into the consortium in Spring of 2013 making it one of only four schools located in the United States involved in the expedition. Dr. Don Michael Hudson, associate professor of Religious Studies and chair of Philosophy and Religion at King University will lead the trip in 2015. This will be his third journey to the Tel Azekah site.

“One benefit of being a member of the consortium is that members of the King community will have access to Tel Azekah,” says Hudson. “Those who travel to Israel for the Tel Azekah expedition will spend 24 days in the Holy Land – 10 on the dig site and 14 touring.”

The 2015 summer dig dates will run from July 9 through Aug. 1. In addition to hands-on excavation at Tel Azekah, participants will spend five days in Jerusalem visiting the Mount of Olives, Western Wall, Damascus Gate, and Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The tour also includes Nazareth, Capernaum, Beersheva, Qumran, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, Masada, the West Bank, Bethlehem, and Jericho among numerous other destinations important to biblical history.

“For King University and the Department of Philosophy and Religion, this means students, faculty, graduates, or anyone who would like to come to King to do a Fellowship will have access to the dig’s exclusive website to perform research,” commented Hudson. “In addition to being able to participate in the Tel Azekah dig, King students would also have an automatic acceptance into the master’s degree program at Tel Aviv Universtiy. Upon entry into the master’s program, students can receive special consideration for the world-class Ph.D. program for archaeological studies at Tel Aviv University.”

“One of the significant aspects of involvement in the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition is that participants will get to experience biblical history and the Holy Land,” added Hudson. “This is a rare and unique opportunity to dig for biblical artifacts – to touch them, to see them up close and personal. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to understand the Bible better from a hands-on perspective. It is an amazing experience for anyone – from children to the retired –to know more about the Bible and the history of Christianity.”

During the summer of 2013, Lauren Miller, a senior Biology and Chemistry major minoring in Security and Intelligence Studies, was King’s first student to participate in the dig. “I was feeling adventurous, and an archaeological dig isn’t something you can do every day.”

While in Israel, Miller spent an extra week working on a separate project that would combine her knowledge of science and intelligence studies. After spending the morning hours on the dig, Miller spent her afternoons preparing for interviews she would conduct with health care professionals. “For my project, I was investigating the tie between security and healthcare in Israel, specifically in Palestine.”  Since her topic was fairly controversial in Israel, Miller was careful when conducting interviews. “I took time to go to the West Bank to conduct interviews. I did not feel unsafe at any time while there. I first took a tour of the West Bank, and then went back to conduct the interviews. The Palestinians were all quite open to talking with me about my research topic.”

“In addition to participating in the dig, students can come with a project just as Lauren did,” says Hudson. “Several have expressed interest in conducting research in Israel. One student discussed the possibility of doing a photographic essay on cultural identities in the Holy Land and another student plans on studying the state of education in Israel and Palestine. The expedition offers multiple opportunities for research related to the participant’s major or minor. Students are encouraged to bring their expertise and passion to further their personal research.”

The Azekah excavation is a joint Israeli-German project that brings together the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures of Tel Aviv University and the Wissenschaftlich-Theologisches Seminar of Heidelberg Universität. The project integrates archaeological fieldwork and theory with contemporary biblical and historical knowledge of the Judahite Lowland Region (Shephelah) to shed light on some of the most intriguing riddles in its history throughout the second and first millennia BCE.

Geographically, Azekah was located on the border between ancient Philistia and Judah and looked over the Valley of Elah. The Valley of Elah was one of the major approaches to Jerusalem; it is also where David fought the Philistine Goliath.  At one point, the valley comes to a very narrow gap; Azekah was strategically positioned at this point. In many ways, Azekah was a gateway to Jerusalem. Azekah was destroyed in 701 BCE by the Assyrians, and it is one of the last major biblical sites that has not been fully excavated. In the late 1800’s, two English archaeologists, Frederick J. Bliss and R. A. Stewart Macalister, spent two years digging at the site. At the end of the two years, they backfilled the area and ceased the dig. Now, over a century later, scholars are back excavating Tel Azekah.

“The opportunities available through this partnership are immense,” added Hudson. “I’m eagerly awaiting my return to the Holy Land to participate in the archaeological dig at Tel Azekah.” Miller added, “To be able to learn about something in class, then go to that place and see it first-hand – it was perfect! I highly recommend going on the dig. I definitely plan to go back. What you find and the experiences you have are truly life-changing.”

Those interested in participating in the three-week expedition to Tel Azekah should contact Dr. Don Michael Hudson at 423.652.4154 or dmhudson@king.edu.  For additional information on The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition, visit the expedition’s official website at http://archaeology.tau.ac.il/azekah/. Also, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lautenschl%C3%A4ger-Azekah-Expedition/302070963172450.

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