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Second Temple Synagogue in Magdala

An ancient synagogue dating from the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE) was excavated at the site of Magdala. Within the synagogue a unique stone was discovered, known as the “Magdala Stone” inscribed with a  first ever menorah decoration. The discovery was the first ever found from that period and also the only one with such elaborate inscriptions of a menorah.  The ancient village is situated near modern day Migdal, and is by its ancient name, Migdala, on the Sea of Galilee just north of Tiberias. The Israel Antiquities Authority continues to conduct excavations at the site.

Within the discovered the synagague there is a stone that is engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), in the middle. It is the first time this type of discovery has ever been made. Up until now there had never been a seven branch menorah engraving discovered within a Jewish context. Archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority are conducting the excavations.  The main hall of synagogue is c. 120 square meters in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall. Its floor was made of mosaic and its walls were treated with colored plaster (frescos). A square stone, the top and four sides of which are adorned with reliefs, was discovered in the hall. The stone is engraved with a seven-branched menorah set atop a pedestal with a triangular base, which is flanked on either side by an amphora (jars). The engraving that appears on the stone that was uncovered joins only six other synagagues in the word that are known to date to the Second Temple period”, said Dina Avshalom-Gorni, the director of the Isrsael Antiquities Authority.

The site is owned by Ark New Gate, which intends to build a unique hotel property and multi-media center that is envisioned as a center of dialogue and respect between cultures and religions. Migdal has long been a very important site to Christians and the nearby historical site is managed by the Franscicans. Christian history recognizes Migdal as mentioned as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. the city was strategically important during the Greate Revolt as well and the base of operation of Yosef Ben Matityahu (Josephus Flavius). AFter the revolt, Migdal became the administrative center of the Galilee lasting until 19CE, when nearby Tiberias was founded and became an important city.

First Century Synagogue
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