The ruins of Magdala are on the western shore of Lake Kinneret, 3 miles north of Tiberius. This place’s claim to fame is because Magdala is the presumed home of Mary Magdalene, an early follower and financial supporter of Jesus of Nazareth. Her name probably means Mary from Magdala. The ruins are considerable interest because of the finding of two synagogues dated to between 50 BCE to 100 CE, and which were therefore in use before the destruction of the Second Temple. They therefore provide insight into the beginnings of the synagogue as a feature of Judaism.

VISITING MAGDALA

 

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 site from the hotel. The site is open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.

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This is the oldest synagogue found around Lake Kinneret. Early synagogues such as this are of interest because they represent the very beginnings of the synagogue as a feature of Judaism..

Magdala was major city in Second Temple times, being on the Via Maris, a major ancient road linking Egypt with Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Magdala means a tower in Aramaic, and is similar to the Hebrew word migdal. This tower may have been used for processing fish, and Magdala is probably the same place as Magdala Nunayya mentioned in the Talmud, meaning Tower of the Fishes.

 

Magdala was first settled during the Hellenistic period between the 2nd to 1st century BCE. Jesus of Nazareth taught here and healed a lady called Mary Magdalene who 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 that had been Mary Magdalene’s home. The city was destroyed by the Romans during the Great Revolt, and later Byzantine and Early Islamic cities were slightly to the north of the Second Temple city.

 

The synagogue uncovered here is the oldest synagogue found on Lake Kinneret and is one of only a few synagogues found in Israel built this early in history. It represents, therefore, the very beginnings of the synagogue as a feature of Judaism. In this period, it may have functioned more as a community center for public meetings and a learning center for Torah readings than as a house of prayer. It needs to be recalled that the synagogue was a brilliant invention. It allowed everyone, rather than just a priestly class, to become involved in the public rituals of Judaism and to be able to develop a more personal relationship with God. However, while it was standing, the Temple was considered to the focus for Jewish prayer, and further development of the synagogue would only fully take place after its destruction. The church and the mosque are modeled on this invention. There is a block in the synagogue with the design of a menorah on its sides (the Magdala Stone), and this is the earliest menorah design seen outside of Jerusalem. The block is tall enough to read a scroll from it while seated.

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

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The church at Magdala.