"You can’t help but sympathize with the Jewish plight today,” he said. "It’s becoming more popular for their enemies to discredit their history.”
Mazar received funding for the dig from a donor in New York, then the Philadelphia Church came in on the second phase of the excavation.
Nagtegaal said he was at the site when excavators discovered the tunnel. "All this hot air just rose as soon as the entrance opened,” he said. "It smelled like a hot type of water vapor.” He and other students also were involved over a period of several years in other key finds. While sifting through soil from under the wall, crews found about 50 small clay "bullae,” or seals believed to be used by people to authenticate business transactions and other communications.
On some of the seals names written in Hebrew can be seen, two of which match those mentioned in the Bible: "Gedaliah the son of Pashur,” and "Jucal the son of Shelemiah.”
Nagtegaal hopes to return to the site to continue helping with the excavation.
"We’re hoping that the tunnel’s location is very significant and therefore it will lead to something extremely significant,” he said. "It’s quite an exciting job.”