On the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, next to a stony beach where fisherman do as they have done for thousands of years, lie some mysterious stones arranged in what seem to be patterns. It is not unusual to find this sort of thing in Israel – the challenge is to find out what, exactly, lies beneath the tangle of reeds, the impacted soil and the detritus of millennia. Who put it there, and why?
The plan is to excavate a building assumed to be the synagogue of Kursi, the village of Rabbi Ya’acov ben Kuri, who is known, from the Talmud as the Rabbi/teacher of Rabbi Judah, the Pious (Yehuda ha-Nasi, who sealed the Mishnah). It is also attributed by some to be: ‘Yonadav, son of Rahav’s synagogue in Kursya over the Tiberian Sea”, known as “Eliyahu’s synagogues’.
Kursi is the likely ruin of the village called Gerasa in the land of the Gerasenes, where, according to the New Testament, Jesus stepped ashore from the Sea of Galilee and exorcised demons from a violent and aggressive man as mentioned in Matthew 8:28. The demons were cast into a herd of swine that then rushed into the sea here and were drowned.
Prof. Michal Artzy and Dr. Haim Cohen, on behalf of Sir Maurice and Lady Irene Hatter Laboratory, and the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa, will lead the archaeological expedition named after the Avery Tsui Foundation; the generous donors of the funds required for the project.
The excavation includes the anchorage and the Biblical village of the Gerasenes on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, 3 miles from the Jordan River; 5 miles from Capernaum and 20 miles from Nazareth.
The importance of the site for both the Jewish and the Christian audience cannot be over emphasised. This is a site with remains of importance to believers of both faiths.