COULD I LIVE a more authentic Jewish life in a “Jewish state”? Could there be a Jewish nation-state that would not succumb to the evils of the modern nation-state, but would organize its existence consistent with the classical Jewish values of justice and love? The questions are not new to me, but they are unfortunately still pressing.

With one year remaining before rabbinic ordination at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, I decided to take a year’s leave of absence (1966–67) to explore these questions for myself at HUC-JIR’s School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem.

When I signed up to participate in the dig at Tel Gezer in the spring of 1967, it never occurred to me that archaeological excavation would become one more weapon in the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine for legitimacy in this ancient land; or that it would become a...

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