The King James Version of Matthew 15: 39 makes mention of Magdala as the place that Jesus travelled to by boat to spread his teachings. Greek manuscripts call this place Magadan and it is what modern day scholars use to reference it as well.
Many people believe that Magdala and Magadan refer to the same place but there are also many that believe that they refer to two very different places altogether. The gospel of Mark in its many manuscripts refers to a place called Dalmanutha while some still refer to Magdala or Magadan.
The Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, clearly refers to two different Magdala’s.
The first is referred to as Magdala Gadar. It is said to lie in the east on the river Yarouk near Gadara now called Umm Qais.
The second Magdala is said to be the one situated near Tiberias, it is called Magdala Nunayya. Magdala Nunayya is said to mean “Tower of Fishes”, most certainly a reference to the salt fishing trade of the time.
In recent centuries an Arabic village has been established around the ruins of ancient Magdala. This village is called Al-Majdal, a nod to the preservation of the ancient name.
In 1910 a new town was built close to the ruins and is called Migdal and was established by Jews from Russia. They setup an agriculture Moshav or cooperative community of farmers and since that time there has been a marked progression of the excavated sites along with the tourism industry that continues to flourish.
A really interesting fact is that the most important archeological find at Magdala, the synagogue, is the closest one to Capernaum where Jesus lived. That means that Jesus must have visited and preached here in Magdala many times.
A Menorah or six-lamp candelabrum was also discovered here. In recent times a spiritual center, hotel and full archeological park has been established.
One noteworthy visit took place in May of 2009. Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Magdala to bless the cornerstone of the nearly built Magdala Center. The center will serve as a spiritual retreat to all pilgrims and include the follow:
- The Notre Dame of Galilee Hotel with a capacity of 300
- The new Basilica of St Mary Magdalene
- Mass and sacrament services
- The “Magdala, Walk with Me” media center
- The Piedra de Magdala Center which will display the stone that Pope Benedict XVI blessed
- International Center for Women, to help create awareness of the dignity and vocation of women
- Access to the ruins of ancient Magdala, the Franciscan friars and archeologists in the area.
Some 2.5 million Christian pilgrims make their way to Magdala every year. 70% of all visitors go to Galilee.
On your next trip to Madgala the Magdala Center is certainly a must see. Come and enjoy the beautiful hotel, get reconnected to your faith at the retreat and soak up the breathtaking views. Magdala, the land where Jesus preached, awaits you.