GEZER , Israel (SWBTS) – Tensions and conflict between Hamas and Israel—including Palestinian rocket-fire on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Israeli air strikes on Gaza—have increased over the past week, but Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s archaeological teams at Tel Gezer, which lies between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, continue to work and unearth valuable historical data about the region.

“Fortunately, our excavation camp and where we work are in low-populated areas, out of the target range and strategy of the rockets coming from Gaza,” said Steven Ortiz, Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds at Southwestern.

“Our dig house just happens to be a bomb shelter, so we have gone to the dig house when we heard the air raid sirens, and it is also open to other guests of the hotel and community. We are sensitive to all parties involved in the conflict, take every precaution and follow all directions from the Israeli Government.”

Ortiz co-directs the Tel Gezer Excavation and Publication Project along with Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The project enlists a consortium of schools, which includes Ashland Theological Seminary, Clear Creek Baptist College, Emmaus Bible College, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School, and Lycoming College. Additionally, Southwestern sponsors the Tel Gezer Regional Survey, led by Old Testament and archaeology professor Eric Mitchell. More than 100 professors, students, volunteers and nationals are involved in the project.

Ortiz noted that the team is in good spirits and continues to make great strides on the dig, now in its seventh season.

“As we live and work during the modern military activity, “ Ortiz said, “our work during the day focuses on the Egyptian destruction of ancient Gezer. It is clear that Gezer was a major regional center during the time of Solomon (see 1 Kings 9:15-16).

“We have evidence of major fortifications and monumental buildings near the gate. We have spent the last several seasons excavating the fortifications system, particularly the line of the city wall to the south of the city. This season we are exploring a major building just west of the gate as people entered the city. This building complex is preserved for nearly two meters.”