A Fruitful 50 Years
The Mazar-Armstrong partnership has produced some wonderful fruit over the past five decades.
Before Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, there was Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, an organization founded by the late humanitarian and religious leader Herbert W. Armstrong. Under Mr. Armstrong the aicf supported humanitarian ventures all over the world, including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Jordan and Japan. Mr. Armstrong personally visited with dozens of heads of state from Asia to Africa to Europe and beyond. His greatest affection, however, was for one tiny, new country at the heart of the world: Israel.
As a devoted student and teacher of the Bible, Mr. Armstrong cherished both the remarkable history and the glorious future of Jerusalem. Between 1967 and his death in 1986, Mr. Armstrong met with many prime ministers and presidents, including Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Navon, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Zalman Shazar and Itzhak Shamir, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, Tourism Minister Moshe Kol and Hebrew University Professor Benjamin Mazar.
Following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, Professor Mazar had been placed in charge of Hebrew University’s massive new archeological dig near the Temple Mount. In the fall of 1968, Mr. Armstrong flew to Israel to meet with Mazar. He was impressed by the scope and importance of the excavation.
The ‘Big Dig’
In November 1968, Professor Mazar, together with the dean of Hebrew University’s Humanities Program Josef Aviram, traveled to America to tour Mr. Armstrong’s Ambassador College (AC) campuses in California and Texas. Meanwhile, Hebrew University was fielding offers from several major American universities seeking to participate in the Temple Mount project. These offers were rejected—while AC was given a 50/50 joint partnership with Professor Mazar and Hebrew University.
The partnership was formalized on December 1, 1968, at the presidential palace in Jerusalem. There, Tourism Minister Moshe Kol proposed “an iron bridge” between Hebrew University and Ambassador College “that can never be broken.”
Beginning in the summer of 1969, dozens of AC students traveled to Israel to volunteer on the excavation. The “big dig,” as it became known, would continue for almost a decade. It provided hundreds of ambassador students the opportunity to touch the ancient remains of Jerusalem. In addition to sending student laborers, who were often praised as the excavation’s most enthusiastic workers, AC also shouldered half of the cost of excavations from 1968 until the conclusion of the dig in 1976.
As the years passed, the friendship between Professor Mazar and Herbert Armstrong blossomed. The two friends could often be seen walking arm in arm visiting the dig site, or relaxing at Mazar’s home in Jerusalem. Professor Mazar visited Ambassador College multiple times. On one occasion, Mr. Armstrong, Israel Exploration Society president Josef Aviram and Professor Mazar teamed up to host an archeological exhibit in Japan, where they were welcomed by Prince Mikasa.
Professor Mazar and Mr. Armstrong shared many similar traits. Both were straight-talking and uncompromising. Both considered the Bible a valid historical source. Both valued the importance of objectively seeking the truth, whatever it might be, rather than striving merely to reinforce preconceived beliefs. Benjamin Mazar was praised as a pioneer of a research discipline that fused archaeology, geography and the history described in Jewish Scripture and other ancient near-Eastern sources. He was also noted for accurately portraying details of Jerusalem’s impressive Umayyad period under Muslim rule, impressing visiting Arab leaders with his candor.
When Professor Mazar wrapped up his Temple Mount excavation in 1978, Mr. Armstrong supported the large archaeological excavations in the City of David, directed by Yigal Shiloh. When Mr. Armstrong died in January 1986, Professor Mazar wrote, “During the years of our association with him, all of us developed the highest regard for his wonderful personality and qualities. His deep devotion to the ideals of peace and justice in the spirit of the biblical prophets was appreciated by his friends in Israel. His feeling for Israel and Jerusalem was manifested in his true interest in the archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and in the City of David. His name will always be attached to this most important undertaking carried out in Jerusalem.”
During Benjamin Mazar’s excavations in the shadow of the Temple Mount, a young girl was often seen at his side, rubbing elbows with archaeologists and Ambassador students. She was the professor’s granddaughter. Her name was Eilat Mazar.
Restoring the Iron Bridge
Benjamin Mazar’s Temple Mount excavations ended in 1976, but a decade later, a second round of digging began on the Ophel, this time under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the work of Herbert W. Armstrong was about to be revived. When Mr. Armstrong died in January 1986, his successors abandoned his legacy, and within 10 years, the globe-encompassing, multimillion-dollar humanitarian work was practically dead, and the work in Israel abandoned. But in December 1989, a revival took place. Gerald Flurry, an Ambassador graduate and Worldwide Church of God minister, was fired for holding fast to the teachings and legacy of Mr. Armstrong. Within a week of his firing, Mr. Flurry started the Philadelphia Church of God to continue the legacy of Mr. Armstrong.
On February 22, 1996, Mr. Flurry established the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, a humanitarian organization patterned after Mr. Armstrong’s Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. The foundation began supporting humanitarian ventures in Jordan and Israel by providing support and volunteers to the Al-Hussein Society in Amman, which works with handicapped children, the Young Moslem Women’s Association and the Petra National Trust. For three years the foundation sent volunteers to work in the schools and workshops run by the Al-Hussein Society.
In February 1998, our volunteers in Jordan and Project Manager Stephen Flurry and his wife dined with his Royal Highness Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid and his wife Princess Majda. Prince Ra’ad still serves as the head of the board of trustees for the Petra National Trust and is now the Head of the Royal House of Iraq.
In 2001, another piece of Mr. Armstrong’s legacy was raised up with the establishment of what is today Herbert W. Armstrong College (hwac). Begun with just a handful of students, the college has grown to have two permanent campuses, located in the U.S. and the UK, and one seasonal campus in Jerusalem, Israel.
In the summer of 2005, the world of archaeology was rocked when Dr. Eilat Mazar announced that her team had unearthed a huge public building in the ancient City of David, dating to the 10th century b.c., that she believed to be the palace of King David. Gerald Flurry read about Dr. Mazar’s landmark discovery with keen interest, and was thrilled to learn that Eilat Mazar was the granddaughter of Professor Benjamin Mazar. The City of David is an area containing the oldest remains of ancient Jerusalem, located within the neighborhood of Silwan today.
In July 2006, Herbert W. Armstrong College president Stephen Flurry contacted Dr. Mazar. Though many years had passed since she had worked with Mr. Armstrong, her childhood memories flooded back. “Without the support of Mr. Armstrong and the ambassadors, the Temple Mount excavations would have never become, as it did, the most important and largest excavations in Israel at that time,” she recalled.
When Mr. Flurry said that hwac was eager to provide support to her excavations, Dr. Mazar quickly accepted. Within months, hwac students were living in Jerusalem and working daily on Dr. Mazar’s City of David projects. It only took a matter of weeks before these eager students found willing teachers among Dr. Mazar’s staff. The hwac liberal arts education, which includes emphasis on developing the whole character as well as specific skills, has meant our volunteers are valuable for excavating, research, writing, processing finds, leading and assisting other staff members. From the start of our partnership in the fall of 2006, Dr. Mazar has used hwac students and alumni in all levels of her excavations.
Since 2006, Herbert W. Armstrong College has participated in every one of Dr. Mazar’s excavations in the City of David and on the Ophel. During that time, Dr. Mazar has made some extraordinary discoveries.
October 2006, City of David Phase 2: The first students to join with Dr. Mazar’s team arrived in Jerusalem in October 2006. They volunteered on Phase 2 of Dr. Mazar’s City of David excavations. Our students were part of uncovering the 19-foot-thick eastern wall of King David’s palace. The excavation continued through March 2007.
Summer 2007: On July 4, 2007, Gerald Flurry and his son met then Mayor of Jerusalem Uri Lupolianski. Mr. Lupolianski had been deputy to Mayor Kollek, a close friend of Mr. Armstrong in 1983. During the summer of 2007, a small group of Armstrong students again joined Dr. Mazar’s team. They initially helped Dr. Mazar with office work before moving back into the field to help repair a collapsing wall in the City of David that needed urgent archaeological attention. Their work ethic and experience secured their place within this small excavation team.
What began as simple restoration work soon morphed into a full excavation as the integrity of the wall was too compromised to repair. As the wall was dismantled, the assemblage of 6th- and 5th-century pottery found beneath it re-dated the wall from what was originally believed to be the Hasmonean period to the Persian period. Investigation showed that it was constructed during the time period that Nehemiah was on the scene rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). This incredible discovery brought life to another biblical figure and event.
November 2007: When Phase 3 of the City of David excavations began in late 2007, more hwac volunteers joined the crew. During this season, the Gedaliah seal (a clay bulla) was discovered that bore the name of one of the princes who persecuted the Prophet Jeremiah (“Belonging to Gedaliah son of Pashur,” Jeremiah 38:1). A 150-foot-long water tunnel was also unearthed, running behind the Stepped Stone Structure in the City of David. This may have been the conduit through which King David’s forces crawled in order to conquer the city in the 10th century b.c. The excavation of the tunnel, Dr. Mazar said, was almost entirely an “Armstrong College enterprise.” This phase finished in the summer of 2008.
February 2008:aicf members and Philadelphia Trumpet staff traveled to Israel to attend the Jerusalem Conference. Here, Chairman Gerald Flurry was able to meet with Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold and British journalist and author Melanie Phillips.
November 2009: Dr. Mazar returned to the area of her grandfather’s 1970s excavations and her own 1986 excavation area: the Ophel. Situated just south of the Temple Mount walls, this area has turned out to be a veritable goldmine of significant artifacts. Phase 1 of Dr. Mazar’s renewed Ophel excavations ran from late 2009 into 2010. hwac students were a part of Dr. Mazar’s small team. During this excavation, the assemblage of pottery that included the bullae of King Hezekiah and Isaiah was discovered.
A gatehouse structure, originally exposed in Mazar’s 1986 excavation, was also firmly dated to the time of King Solomon, alongside a massive length of wall (making up the largest Iron Age structure in all Israel), matching the description of Solomon’s Jerusalemite expansions in 1 Kings 3:1.
November 2011: Eager to continue supporting projects in Israel, the aicf presented a check to the Israeli Exploration Society to aid with publishing the finds of the Temple Mount excavations. Chairman Gerald Flurry was also able to meet with Dr. Josef Aviram, a close friend of Mr. Armstrong and an associate of Professor Benjamin Mazar.
Summer 2012: In May 2012, a group of hwac students, alumni and faculty journeyed again to Jerusalem. The goal was to report on news in the region for the Philadelphia Trumpet and assist Dr. Mazar in planning the next phase of her excavation. Soon after their arrival, Dr. Mazar was granted a license, and Ophel Phase 2a began on August 26.
Some more hwac volunteers were added, making it the largest group to date. A wealth of finds emerged from this excavation. The earliest Hebrew inscription ever found in Jerusalem was discovered, along with a royal Israelite (proto-Aeolic) capital, Herodian ritual baths (called “mikvaot”), and a further massive wall that was confidently dated to the time of King Solomon. The volunteers made up the backbone of Dr. Mazar’s team for the five-month stint, helping excavate, sift material and then process the finds ready for publication. Four students and alumni stayed on after the excavation for a number of months, aiding Dr. Mazar in the publication process.
Just days after the last few volunteers returned, hwac President Stephen Flurry announced that Phase 2b of the excavation would begin that summer. Fourteen hwac volunteers were chosen to participate.
Summer 2013: During the first few weeks of Phase 2b, a massive gold hoard was discovered hidden away on the floor of a Byzantine structure, including a large golden menorah medallion, over 30 gold coins, and several other gold and silver artifacts. Several other precious items were found on the four-month excavation, including a c. 10th century dagger.
2014-2017: These years were a hiatus in excavating, allowing Dr. Mazar to focus on the publishing her findings, including her final reports for the City of David excavations and the first two phases of the Ophel excavations. Significantly, it allowed her time to fully study and publish the finds of the Hezekiah and Isaiah bullae.
In February 2016, Brent and Michelle Nagtegaal moved to Jerusalem and established a permanent office for the aicf and Trumpet. In addition to supporting Dr. Mazar, Brent started the Israel branch of the Trumpet website, re-branded as www.WatchJerusalem.co.il. This site focuses on news, archaeology, history and prophecy in Israel and the wider Middle East.
October 2017: In October 2017, Gerald Flurry visited Jerusalem and met with Dr. Mazar. During this visit, Dr. Mazar was granted a license to begin Part C of her Phase 2 Ophel excavations. In December 2017, Mr. Flurry decided that, for the first time, aicf would shoulder the entire cost of Phase 3 of Dr. Mazar’s Ophel excavation.
In January 2018, twelve Armstrong College students and alumni traveled to Jerusalem for the three-month excavation. In a special release for the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover), Dr. Mazar announced the discovery of dozens of a.d. 66-70 Jewish Rebellion coins found during the excavation. This hoard includes potentially the largest cache of specially-minted Year 4 (a.d. 70) coins ever found. Dr. Mazar’s team is now processing and documenting the rest of the finds from this phase, ready for release and publication.
Today, Herbert W. Armstrong College and the aicf continue to support the work of Dr. Eilat Mazar as she processes the finds and information collected in the latest phase and prepares for the next exciting excavation. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the special Armstrong-Mazar partnership. We look forward to the fruits of further discoveries and shared, once-in-a-lifetime experiences in this most rewarding, unique and blessed partnership.
Reviving a Legacy
The excavations conducted by Hebrew University and Ambassador College finished in 1985. The following year, Herbert W. Armstrong died after 93 active, vibrant, passionate years of service to the cause of peace and abundant living for all of mankind.
However, those who Mr. Armstrong entrusted with the Ambassador Foundation, Ambassador College, the Plain Truth and the Worldwide Church of God ultimately rejected his legacy. The college was closed and the campuses sold. All the humanitarian and cultural activities of the Ambassador Foundation ceased.
And yet some refused to let the work of Herbert W. Armstrong die. In 1989, another tiny new beginning took place as the Philadelphia Church of God broke away from the failing wcg in order to keep Mr. Armstrong’s legacy and work alive.
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation began in 1996 as the Philadelphia Foundation. Early that year, it took over a project that the defunct Ambassador Foundation had left behind: a collaboration with the Al-Hussein Society in Amman, Jordan, sending volunteers to work with physically and mentally handicapped children.
In the smallest of ways, the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong had been revived.
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation went on to support the Petra National Trust and Jerusalem’s Liberty Bell Park. And in 2006, a much greater door suddenly opened up.
During Benjamin Mazar’s excavations in the shadow of the Temple Mount, a young girl frequented the dig site, rubbing elbows with archaeologists and spending time with the Ambassador students and taking a keen interest in the work. Her name was Eilat.
In 1986, digging again commenced on the Temple Mount. This time, it was Eilat Mazar, the professor’s granddaughter, who was heading the project. The younger Mazar focused on the First Temple period at the eastern part of the site, and she continued in the spirit of her grandfather’s work throughout the 1990s.
In August 2005, Dr. Mazar announced that she and her team had made a remarkable discovery in East Jerusalem: the remains of a large public building that dates to the 10th century B.C. Mazar believes that the evidence indicates this structure was none other than the palace of King David.
The following year, the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation offered its support to Dr. Mazar’s work, sending a handful of Herbert W. Armstrong College students to assist with the continuing excavations.
Dr. Mazar still remembered the close relationship between her grandfather and Mr. Armstrong. “Without the support of Mr. Armstrong and the Ambassadors, the Temple Mount Excavations would have never become, as it did, the most important and largest excavations in Israel at that time,” she said. Dr. Mazar easily recognized the Armstrong Foundation’s roots, and was thrilled to continue the tradition, remarking that she was “excited to have the Ambassadors back with us.”
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation and Herbert W. Armstrong College have participated in several phases of Dr. Mazar’s excavation in Jerusalem, helping to make a string of remarkable discoveries.
2006-2007: COD Excavations, Phase 2
The first students to join with Dr. Mazar’s team arrived in Jerusalem in October, 2006. Within just a few months, the “iron-bridge” relationship between the Mazar’s and Armstrong was revived. Our three students were part of uncovering the eastern wall of King David’s Palace.
Dr. Mazar and her team excavated a projecting tower more than 15 feet thick in late 2007. New artifacts appear to date the wall not to the Hasmonean period, as previously thought, but to the time of Nehemiah. The team also found a bulla, or seal impression, of Gedaliah, one of Jeremiah’s accusers.
2007-2008: COD Excavations, Phase 3
During the summer of 2007, a small group once more became a part of Dr. Mazar’s team in Jerusalem. Beginning with office work, they soon transitioned back out into the field when Phase 3 of her City of David excavations got underway. Three more students and alumni joined the crew in Jerusalem which brought the total to five volunteers on the dig site. During this season, a collapsing wall was determined to be from Nehemiah’s time and the discovery of the Gedaliah bulla, the seal of one of the princes who persecuted the prophet Jeremiah was found. The team discovered a water tunnel more than 150 feet long that might have been the conduit King David’s forces used to conquer the city in the 10th century. Dr. Mazar called the excavation of the tunnel an almost entirely “Armstrong College enterprise.”
2009-2010: Ophel Excavations, Phase 1
2009 saw Dr. Mazar return to the area of her grandfather’s 1970s excavations and her own 1986 excavation area; the Ophel. Situated just south of the Temple Mount walls, this area has turned out to be a gold-mine of significant artifacts. During this first season back in the Ophel area, two Armstrong College students were a part of the work, excavating the bullae of King Hezekiah and Isaiah the Prophet, the first of their kind found in a scientific archaeological excavation. The Gatehouse structure they were discovered in, originally exposed in Mazar’s 1986 excavation, was firmly dated to the time of King Solomon in this phase. They helped unearth walls in what is believed to be a royal complex built by King Solomon. The city wall, located in the Ophel, is estimated to be more than 200 feet long and almost 20 feet high.
2012: Ophel Excavations, Phase 2a
Running from August 26th to December 31st, 2012, Phase 2a was a productive season as the largest group of Armstrong College volunteers, to date, worked their way through newer layers to reach the Iron Age ones. The earliest Hebrew inscription ever discovered in Jerusalem was found during this season, along with a royal Israelite (proto-Aeolic) capital, Herodian ritual baths and a large wall dating to the time of King Solomon. 17 volunteers fleshed out Dr. Mazar’s team for the five-month stint, helping excavate, sift material and then process the finds ready for publication.
2013: Ophel Excavations, Phase 2b
The summer dig of 2013 saw 14 Armstrong College volunteers working with Dr. Mazar as they removed the next few layers. In just the first few weeks of the excavation, the Menorah Medallion along with the gold and silver treasure horde was discovered, on the floor of a Byzantine structure. In the four-month excavation season, all three areas were able to reach the earliest remains dating the Ophel’s first period of use to be the First Temple period.
2018: Ophel Excavations, Phase 2C
After four and a half years, Armstrong College was able to once more participate in Dr. Mazar’s excavations. This phase 3 was special however as it was the first phase to be entirely funded by Herbert W. Armstrong College and the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation. 12 Armstrong College students and alumni were involved in this three-month dig. In a special release for the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover), Dr. Mazar announced the discovery of dozens of 66-70 a.d. Jewish Rebellion coins found during the excavation. This is potentially the largest cache of Year 4 (70 a.d.) coins ever found. Dr. Mazar’s permanent team is now in the middle of processing and documented the rest of the finds from this phase ready for publication.
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation and Herbert W. Armstrong College continue to support and participate in the fascinating discoveries lying in wait beneath the surface in Jerusalem.
Foundation president Gerald Flurry and staff regularly travel to Jerusalem to personally investigate progress on the foundation’s activities in the eternal city. Foundation representatives have attended the World Jewish Congress, the Herzliya Conference and the Jerusalem Conference.
The foundation hosted an archaeological exhibit at its headquarters in Edmond, Oklahoma, from 2011 to 2015, that featured artifacts from 10th-century Jerusalem, featuring the bullae of princes who were alive in Jeremiah’s time.
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation continues to raise up the ruins of the Ambassador Foundation in a variety of exciting ways.
In addition to its work in Jerusalem, the Armstrong Foundation sponsors a performing arts series patterned after the famed Ambassador Foundation series at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California, which became known as “the Carnegie Hall of the West Coast.” The Armstrong Foundation’s series began very small in 1998 but has since grown to host thousands of patrons and dozens of bright musical stars at its new home, the $20 million Armstrong Auditorium.
Herbert W. Armstrong College continues the noble, character- building education once championed by Ambassador College. It is a privately supported coeducational institution offering two- and four-year scholastic curricula in theology, liberal arts and applied arts and sciences.
From performing arts to true education to youth camps to publishing to broadcasting, to participation in projects in the Holy Land, the Armstrong Foundation and the Philadelphia Church of God continue to raise up the legacy of a remark- able man—an unofficial ambassador for world peace, a great educator, a close acquaintance of world leaders, and a warm friend to Israel