Once again, there were many highlights of our most recent Israel tour. Many of the 25 who joined me on this April 7-20 tour of Israel & Jordan thoroughly enjoyed standing by the headwaters of the Jordan River. For others, the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was more than special. Still others loved walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem as well as sitting on the very Temple steps, the very ones Jesus and His disciples would have used to enter the Herodian Temple mentioned in the Gospels. Of course the view from the top of the Mt. of Olives and overlooking the entire Old City and Temple Mount ranks equally high on the list of every tour experience. But of the unique encounters this last tour included was the privilege of visiting Magdala, a site not yet open to the public.
It was indeed a blessed day when we drove up to this city located on the NW shores of the Sea of Galilee. While the excavation of the 1st century part of the city is still currently taking place, this day happened to be a “day-off” for the archaeologists, all because the lead archaeologist’s son was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. What made this Bar Mitzvah unique was this: they were holding the celebration right here in Magdala, more specifically in the 1st century synagogue that was recently discovered! So as we pulled up to to the site, we were greeted by an archeological team member who told us that while they awaited the Bar Mitzvah later that afternoon she was able to give our group a personalized tour of the synagogue! We couldn’t believe it!
After being told to carefully follow the footsteps of the archaeologist into the main area of the excavation, we sat down on the very stone benches of this ancient synagogue, only one of seven 1st centuries found in all of Israel. While not mentioned specifically in the Gospels, there is no doubt that Jesus would have visited or even spoke in this synagogue. Jesus even most likely sat on the same stones we were sitting upon! While the bema stone positioned in the middle of the synagogue was now a replica (the original of this most significant find is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem), everything else we saw, and touched, and photographed was from the time of Jesus. To be sure, this was the home town of the Mary known to us as “Mary Magdalene.”
As Magdala continues to be excavated and then developed into a tourist site, complete with walkways and fences, we were privileged to be able to see this amazing site “as is.” And to think Yeshua/Jesus most likely would have been in this very place made it extra special.
Amazing experiences like this happen regularly on our tours. If God may be leading you to join us for one of our upcoming tours to Israel, Jordan, Greece, and/or Turkey, I welcome you aboard! Visit Biblical Israel Tours for all the listings of the next 10 tours I will be leading. You can also visit the site to view all of the “tour experiences” from previous tours.
A life-changing encounters like visiting Magdala awaits!