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rleach / Uncategorized / Volunteering at Magdala Center
Volunteering at Magdala Center
As I meandered through the stones of the 1st century synagogue at Gamla a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, “Wow. It’s not every day that you get to be inside a first century synagogue.” As soon as the thought passed, I immediately realized that I do, indeed, spend every day in a first century synagogue as a volunteer for the archaeological dig at Magdala. There are not many people in the world in the same position; what a privilege to have this opportunity.
Archaeological dig at Magdala, photo courtesy Travelujah
A couple of months ago, I decided to put my career as a 4th grade teacher on hold to try something different. I was three weeks away from leaving El Salvador when Father Juan Solana came to my prayer group to recruit volunteers for the Magdala Center. Providence, not coincidence, brought him there that evening and I listened to the voice of God telling me to drop everything and set out on an adventure with Him in the Holy Land. A couple of months later, I arrived in Magdala. I traded my life in the classroom for a life in the midst of stone walls and dirt – a lot of dirt. Each day I chip away at the soil the covers the only entirely first century town discovered in Israel, and the hometown of Mary Magdalene. Every morning on the way to the excavation, I wonder what I might uncover; it sends chills down my spine to think that the pools I am digging out of the dirt are the same ones that Jesus saw next to the synagogue on his way to preach there.
Before starting my volunteer experience in August, I really had no idea what an archaeological dig was going to be like. I imagined small brushes and tools, and a lot of meticulous cleaning of small objects. I was surprised that, instead of using little tools, on my first day I was handed a large pick axe and a hoe. Digging in Magdala is a lot like digging in your garden, except that you’re uncovering 2,000 year old stones instead of a nice place to plant a tree. At first I was marveled by each little piece of pottery, some the size of a dime and others the size of the palm of my hand. Now, after seeing what seems like millions of pieces of dime-sized pottery, the ones that are the size of my entire hand are more thrilling to find. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about how they use the pottery to date the site, and how the information they collect from the pottery combines from that from the coins that have been found, and the glass, and historical texts, and the architectural structures, to date the site. It is amazing to have the experience of uncovering the first 1st-century town found in Israel.
Rachel Leach (far right) with visitors at Magdala
Being a part such a monumental project in historical terms, and a place so significant to Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most dedicated disciples, is truly impossible to describe. I, for one, and many other volunteers, pilgrims, and visitors alike, find the site magical and quite providential. I’m sure if you come to visit, you too will discover the magic and providence of Magdala.
A window into the experience of a volunteer at the Magdala Center, an archaeological dig and budding pilgrimage center in Galilee.