Magdala, a unique place by the Sea of Galilee, is a first century city where the Jewish residents used to gather in a synagogue which Jesus visited and where He taught. At Jesus time Magdala was a commercial trade center with a thriving fish industry, particularly a pickled fish market exporting its tasty goods to Rome.
And Magdala is traditionally believed to be a home town of Maria Magdalena, one of the most mysterious personages in the Gospels.
Very soon Magdala will be officially opened for the visitors, and doubtlessly, it will fast become one of the most visited sites in Israel. But back in 2009, when a construction of the Christian Pilgrimage Guesthouse has begun here, no one could have imagined what was hiding under a thin layer of dry soil.
As workers began to dig the foundation for the guesthouse, they discovered a first century synagogue, what already created a great excitement, as this was certainly a place where Jesus prayed and taught. But this was just the beginning. Inside the synagogue they soon found The Magdala Stone, a discovery many archaeologists call the most significant archaeological find in the past 50 years.
And, as archaeologists continued to dig further, they discovered an entire first century Jewish town lying just below the surface.
The front of the Magdala Stone depicts the oldest carved image of the Second Temple’s seven-branched Menorah ever found, and this discovery has produced intense excitement among the archaeologists and historians.
It is for the first time when a carving of Menorah dating the times of the Jerusalem Temple has ever been found.
Menorah has always stood for the symbol of the Jewish Faith and has represented the very core of the Monotheism for the Jews and the Christians alike. But after its disappearance, and for the last two thousand years, people have continued arguing in vain, how the Menorah should have looked like.
And only now, this enigma has finally been solved – the real Menorah looks EXACTLY as it had been depicted at the Triumph Arch in Rome, which, after hot arguments, was decided to be made the symbol of the State of Israel. This event closes the gap of the two thousand years, from the destruct of the Jerusalem Temple and disappearance of the Menorah somewhere in Roman captivity and till the carving of that very Menorah was found in Magdala.
This discovery alone would be sufficient to make Magdala a major tourist attraction and a prime target for pilgrims, tourists and scientists alike. But this is far yet. Present day excavations hardly present 10% of the total city area to be yet uncovered. But they have already brought to light living houses of Jesus time and Mikveh (Jewish ritual baths), ancient port and its warehouses, beautiful 1st Century Mosaic floors and well-paved streets. And at the short distance proudly stands a Roman watch tower which gave a city its very name, as "Migdal" (or Magdala) means just that – a tower.
Just few steps away from the excavation site proudly stands "Duc in Altum" (Latin: “Put out Into the Deep”, Luke 5:4), a modern church, which combines several fascinating elements of ancient excavations with the most modern design. When entering the church, the first thing one sees is a Boat Chapel, which has enough room for up to 300 people. With a breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee, a reflecting pool behind the class walls and a unique boat-shaped altar, this chapel commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat.
The Boat Chapel is surrounded by four additional chapels called "Mosaic Chapels" which walls are covered by the expressive modern mosaics depicting several famous Biblical events at the Sea of Galilee. And one of these chapels is of course the Mary Magdalene Chapel, which reminds us the story in Luke of Jesus casting out demons and curing Maria Magdalene.