About Utah: Using modern resources to reveal the past in the Holy Land

Published: Sunday, March 3 2013 10:55 p.m. MST

Over the past six years, the Rudds' foundation has poured nearly $1 million into the work, capital that has paid for the full-time services of noted archaeologist Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, supplied wages for Israeli archaeology students to live in tents on site and paved the way for students and professors from Utah Valley University to travel to Beit Lehi and survey the site with the latest 3D and GPS technology.

Within just the last year, new digs have uncovered a tomb belonging to Salome, believed to be the mother of apostles James and John and the woman who was with Mary at the crucifixion and at Jesus's tomb; a columbarium, or underground vault, with thousands of niches for raising turtle doves; and dozens more inscriptions on the walls, including additional references to Jesus.

"What we've found, and what we're finding, leaves no doubt that there was a Christ, that he lived, that he was real, and that he mattered to the people of Beit Lehi," says Alan.

Does he worry about the money? Only every day. "I have to look at the financial aspects all the time," he says. "But so far, money miraculously has always been there. Even during a very difficult time from 2008 to 2011, investments I've made did well enough that it's been able to keep going."

It is not in his nature to ask for help, but he knows what donations to the foundation can mean. "If we had twice as much money we'd spend twice as much time there," he says.

(If you'd like to donate, or take a virtual tour of Beit Lehi, go to www.beitlehi.com).

"Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry," says Alan, a man who has spent his life in ventures that bring in piles of cash instead of the other way around. "But I can't leave."

Says his wife Debra, nodding her head sympathetically, "It's a feeling that's there, it's not just dirt. I don't know what it is exactly. But it's good. Yeah, it's good."

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: benson@deseretnews.com

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