About 150 feet long, the musty tunnel is so narrow they had to crawl at some points to get through. But the ancient passage 20 feet below the city of Jerusalem was where Brent Nagtegaal and other students from a college in Edmond wanted to be.
"It was quite amazing ... the chance of finding something amazing inside a tunnel that no one has been in for two and a half thousand years,” Nagtegaal said. Nagtegaal, 23, a senior from Australia, is one of several students at Herbert W. Armstrong College who have spent months helping excavate a site that Eilat Mazar, a prominent Israeli archeologist spearheading the dig, believes is a remnant of the long-sought palace of David. The work is important for Christians because it lends more weight to accounts in the Bible, said Stephen Flurry, president of the college situated on 170 acres in north Edmond. The campus also serves as the headquarters of the Philadelphia Church of God, which runs the college. The church broke away from the Worldwide Church of God, founded in 1989 by Armstrong. The tunnel at the Jerusalem dig site runs beneath a massive wall 15 feet wide, part of what Mazar theorizes is the palace, Flurry said. "Her theory is that David’s palace was built sort of along the narrow ridge of what used to be the City of David.” If it is David’s temple, the site could prove that the Israelites were more than "just a small tribal group of nomads,” Flurry said, and that David "did establish a kingdom there and it was much more substantial than some of the biblical minimalists maintain.” That would show that the Jewish people were in Jerusalem thousands of years ago, adding more weight to their modern claims to the land, he said. "You can’t help but sympathize with the Jewish plight today,” he said.