Dr. Steve Notley sent out an information email to all registered participants on March 14. His email letter is reproduced below. Please take the time to read his remarks if you did not receive an email copy. Emmaus and the archaeological staff continue to monitor the COVID-19 virus and its impact on travel to Israel. Another update letter is planned for early May.


14 March, 2020

Dear Participants in the 2020 Season of the El Araj Excavation Project,

As for now, the dig has not been cancelled. 

Currently, the government of Israel has placed travel restrictions on US and international travelers wanting to enter Israel. For now, the restrictions are: Tourists may enter Israel if they can show that they can quarantine themselves for 14 days after entering.  Hotels and dormitories do not count as quarantine housing. (Here is the statement from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quoting the Ministry of Health.) The restrictions are in effect for the near future but are not permanent restrictions.  We are hopeful that the current restrictions for tourists will change and Israel will allow entry without quarantine measures by the time of our excavation dates.

If a participant cancels from the excavation due to COVID-19 health concerns, or if the excavation staff at a later date cancels the 2020 El Araj excavation season, Emmaus Educational Services will refund all payments received for the excavation. This refund does not include a flight refund since Emmaus was not involved in your flight arrangements. 

If you have not yet purchased your airline tickets, it is wise to wait until travel circumstances are known closer to the dates of the excavation. It is also advised that you purchase trip cancellation insurance for your flights.

If you already have your airline tickets and you elect to cancel from the excavation, please check with your airline for their cancellation policy and any penalties or benefits that might be in place due to the COVID-19 virus.  Some airlines are helping ticketed passengers currently impacted by the travel restrictions by providing a refund or “credit” against a future flight.

If you decide to cancel from the excavation, please email a notice of cancellation to Wink Thompson ( Wink will process your refund upon notice of cancellation.

All participants who remain scheduled for the excavation should check with their health insurance agent and/or purchase additional health insurance as necessary to make sure that your healthcare is covered while you are abroad.

The head archaeologist of the excavation, Dr. Motti Aviam, and I have been in communication.  We have decided to keep the excavation scheduled for now, and revisit the situation at the beginning of May.  I will continue to keep everyone informed regarding decisions made about the excavation.  Please consider remaining as a participant until the early May update, but if you find it necessary to cancel at this time, we certainly appreciate your willingness to consider being a part of the excavation and hope to see you at El Araj for the 2021 season.

Check in from time to time to the dig website for updates:  

Also feel free to write to me if you have questions or concerns.  I’ll do my best to respond, as quickly as I am able.

תהיה בריא (tihiye bari: Be Well!)


R. Steven Notley, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins
Chair, Department of Biblical and Theological Studies
Director of Graduate Programs in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins
Academic Director, El-Araj Excavation Project
Nyack College
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New York City, NY 10004
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"Judaism and Christianity are not mother and daughter, but they are in reality sisters, because the mother of both is ancient Judaism"  -David Flusser





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  • "First of all, the trip was wonderful. I realize more and more how much of a gift it was since arriving home. It was a true blessing to have someone of the caliber of Steve leading it. While I have no criticisms, I would like to share how my mindset changed during the trip. Prior to arrival, I thought the journey would impact me more spiritually. In fact, my experience evolved into a history lesson where I become somewhat disconnected from the sites on a spiritual level. I was a little concerned with myself not having that spiritual impact. Mentioning this mind set to one of my fellow travelers, she stated she felt the same way but was not concerned as God is everywhere and Christianity is not really fueled by locations, but rather by the Spirit. That statement really hit home at the time and provided me a sense of peace. I stopped worrying about the spiritual side and just let the trip unfold. Looking back, the true blessing was the trip and the lessons grounded in the Bible for me. I know more now about the land of Jesus, the terrain and distances involved. It has made my Bible study come more alive as I can now place all of the locations. That takes sort of the "logical" mystery out of the Bible for me, and I can better focus on the spiritual side. Since coming home, I found myself more at a sense of peace than before on many levels. The mere act of such a travel experience -- I had never gone any farther than Mexico -- combined with the Bible history lesson broadened my mind and soul. The trip continues to grow on me since arriving home. For me, now is the time of spiritual fulfillment. In a few years, I hope to take my wife and would not hesitate -- in fact would seek out -- an Emmaus trip. Thanks and God Bless."
    T.H., Israel Trip