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According to Christian tradition, the ruins at this site are those of the ancient city of Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene, an early follower and financial supporter of Jesus of Nazareth. The ruins are also of considerable Jewish interest because of the finding of two synagogues dated to between 50 BCE to 100 CE, and which were therefore functioning while the Temple was still in existence.



Directions: Enter “Magdala” into Waze. This will bring you to the hotel.

Entrance: You will need to go to the reception at the hotel to pay the admission fee. Admission is 17 nis, and students and seniors 12 nis. Children under 12 years are free. At the hotel desk they will direct you how to enter the archeological site from the hotel. It is open from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.


This is the oldest synagogue found around Lake Kinneret and dates to before the destruction of the Second Temple.

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Magdala was a major city in Second Temple times, first settled during the Hellenistic period between the 2nd to 1st century BCE. It was located by the Via Maris, the main highway linking Egypt with Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Archeological excavations have shown that this site was a thriving port city with a large harbor and warehouses, public baths, a fish-salting facility, and two synagogues. The city was largely abandoned in about 270 CE, and was further devastated by an earthquake in 363 CE. About a century later, Christian pilgrims identified it as the Magdala of the New Testament.


If so, Jesus of Nazareth taught here and healed a lady called Mary Magdalene. She subsequently travelled with him and was a witness to his crucifixion and burial. Christian sources from the 8th and 10th centuries CE mention a church built on Mary Magdalene’s former home. The city was destroyed by the Romans during the Great Revolt. Later Byzantine and early Islamic cities were located slightly to the north of the older city.


The synagogue uncovered here is the oldest synagogue discovered around Lake Kinneret, and is one of only a few synagogues found in Israel dated to before the destruction of the Second Temple. It represents, therefore, the very beginnings of the synagogue as a feature of Judaism. At this time, a synagogue may have functioned more as a community center for public meetings and a learning center for Torah readings than as a house of prayer.


Prior to its destruction, the Temple was considered the focus for Jewish prayer, and development of the synagogue as we know it today only took place after the destruction of the Second Temple. The synagogue was a major innovation in Jewish religious life in that it allowed everyone, rather than just a priestly class, to become involved in the public rituals of Judaism. It also permitted the development of a more personal relationship with God, as this was no longer dependent on the intervention of a priest. The church and the mosque modeled themselves on this innovation.


There is a stone block within the synagogue with the design of a menorah on its sides that has been called the Magdala Stone. This is the earliest menorah design seen outside of Jerusalem. It is tall enough for someone to be able to read a scroll of the law while seated.

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The synagogue at Magdala and view of the Magdala Stone.

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The church at Magdala.

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Replica of the Magdala Stone in the Yigal Allon Museum

But is this really the city of Magdala?


Many scholars feel that these ruins are those of a city called Taricheae. According to the Jewish historian Josephus and other writers of that time, the city of Taricheae had a population of about 40,000 people, was fortified with walls, and was 30 stadia (about 4 miles) from Tiberias. This site is 3 miles from Tiberias. In other words, it is quite likely that these ruins are those of Taricheae and not Magdala. If so, where was the home of Mary Magdalene?


The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds mention a village called Magdala Nunayya on the outskirts of Tiberias. Magdala means a tower in Aramaic, and is similar to the Hebrew word migdal. This tower may have been used for processing fish. Hence, it is quite likely that the Magdala of New Testament times was Magdala Nunayya, meaning Tower of the Fishes.


Does it matter that the identification of Mary Magdalene’s hometown is in error? Firstly, Mary Magdalene may not mean Mary from Magdala, but Mary as a tower of faith. However, even if the identification is incorrect, the church at Magdala still constitutes a memorial to her memory, since the village of her birth no longer exists.

Details of other sites of Christian interest can be found on the webpage "Capernaum and other nearby sites of Christian interest".

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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