The synagogue in Magdala found in 2009 was one of the greatest archeological finds in modern Israeli architecture. The first century synagogue was one of the oldest ever discovered and had a depiction of the Menorah from the second Temple which is the first time it was ever seen represented and appears to have been done by someone who had seen it in the Temple. It is also notable because the Bible says that Jesus taught in all of the synagogues in the Galilee (Luke 4:14-15; Matthew 4:23), so it stands within reason that Jesus taught in this synagogue. It was the first ever found from his time in the region, but now there is a second synagogue in Magdala found!
The new synagogue was recently discovered in the Magdala site, where a new hotel is also located and operated by the Catholic church. The hotel is the reason that the entire village of Magdala was discovered. When they surveyed the area to prepare to build the new hotel, they expected to find nothing, but then ended up finding the well-known town! they found the first synagogue which is preserved now under a protective canopy. The hotel is now built but digging and discovery on the site continues which led to the second synagogue in Magdala found.
The second synagogue in Magdala found is a mere 200 yards from the first. This has started to change how researchers understand worship in those days. The synagogues were places of not just spiritual importance but also social importance and likely used for gatherings, much like churches today can become important community centers, providing preschools, meeting space, etc.
This newly found structure was a rectangle shape and located in the residential area, as opposed to the original which was in more a of a business district. This is the first time 2 synagogues have ever been found so close together that were functioning at the same time, especially while the Temple was still in Jerusalem. They used to think that synagogues in that day weren’t as big of a deal because worship was mostly thought to have been done in the Temple, but this is helping to change that idea.
The second synagogue in Magdala found was constructed of basalt and chalk, common building materials of the day. It had three rooms, being a large hall flanked by two smaller rooms. The roof was being held up by six pillars and a bench was also discovered. Within the building, pottery, candle holders, glass bowls made from molds, rings, and stone utensils used for purification rituals.
So when will you be able to visit the second synagogue in Magdala found? The powers at be will be meeting in the next few weeks to plan for allowing visitors very soon!
We can’t wait to add this to our itineraries in the future!