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Israel to offer “Indiana Jones-style” archeological excavations for US Evangelicals

Jerusalem24 – The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority in cooperation with the Museum of the Bible in Washington is set to launch tourist packages for US Evangelical tourists involving “Indiana Jones-style” archaeological excavations, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism announced yesterday.

The 10-day-trip, which will be specifically marketed to Evangelicals in the USA, includes excavations, archaeological field activities, and tours with diggers at heritage and nature sites designated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

It was not immediately clear from the press release if the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are included in the plans, however Israel regularly carries out extensive archeological digs in both occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank (which it calls Judea and Samaria).

The Ministry of Tourism brands the tourist package – named Uncovering the Land of the Bible – as a “unique product” marketed especially for the 75th anniversary of the creation of Israel, which will take place in 2023.

The tourist package was designed under the auspices of the Museum of the Bible in Washington after “encouragement” from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism prodded the museum into “taking an active part in the initiative.”

Museum credibility in doubt since opening

The Museum of the Bible in Washington was founded by father and son billionaire evangelical Christians and founders of Hobby Lobby David and Steve Green. They say that over the course of a decade they amassed a collection of “tens of thousands of items” worth over $50 million dollars of Bible-related antiquities, for the express purpose of displaying them in the museum.

The museum also displayed artifacts provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Shortly before the planned opening of the museum in 2017, federal prosecutors in New York announced that thousands of artifacts from the Green collection were found to have been looted from different regions in the Arab world. Hobby Lobby paid a $3 million fine and returned the looted items.

Another scandal hit the museum in 2020 when it was announced every item in its collection of famed “Dead Sea scrolls” was fake. Art Fraud Insights, LLC had been contracted by the museum in 2019 to verify the authenticity of the scrolls, meant to have originated in the Qumran caves near Ein Al-Fashkha in the occupied Jordan Valley.

“After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is the unanimous conclusion of the Advisory Team that none of the textual fragments in the Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic,” says a report by Art Fraud Insights on their website. “Moreover, each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments.”

An e-book published by the museum in 2016 had called the Dead Sea scrolls “an especially important addition to known material.”

Tourist trample damage a risk to Palestinian archeological sites

Ayman Warasneh, Head of Tourism and Antiquities Security Department at Al-Istiqlal University, told Jerusalem24 in August that trading and looting are not the only dangers to Palestine’s over 10,000 archeological sites in the West Bank.

There is of course tourism: the comings and goings of so many enthusiastic pairs of feet “damage the chronology” of a site and render it “unreliable” for scientific excavation.

This is in addition to widespread looting – which Warasneh attributes to the Israel Antiquities Law No.27 of 1978 which states it is permissible for any object discovered before 1978 to be traded on the market, leading of course to the “discovery” of a number of artifacts being backdated to prior 1978.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the US Evangelical tourists who want to take part in the archeological package will receive online training prior to their arrival.

“Strengthening the relationship with the Israel-loving evangelical audience through tourism will bring a lot of money into the Israeli economy,” said Israeli Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov in the press release. “A visit by evangelical tourists which will assist in discoveries related to the biblical heritage of the State of Israel will improve Israeli outreach abroad and spread the heritage of the people of the Book to the Christian world.”

The Israeli Dig-For-A-Day tour operator currently allows tourists “a hands-on experience that combines excavating, sifting, pottery examination, and exploration” at an archeological site in Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel.

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