Monday, November 9, 2009

Menorah in Magdala

Where are archaeology volunteers taken on their weekly field trip?
To other digs, of course, to be guided around by the director of the site!

Don't mind the sign "Archaeological excavations. DANGER -- NO ENTRY."

Our group drove 4 miles south of Tiberias, along the Sea of Galilee, to Migdal.
Migdal in Hebrew, Magdala in Aramaic.
Readers of the New Testament will know that the town was most likely the birthplace or place of residence of Mary Magdalene, a devoted follower of Jesus.

Something like a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" greeted our expectant eyes.
A stone box-shaped object literally under wraps, hidden by a heavy cloth and white sandbags.
It stood in the front of a 1st century synagogue. The basalt benches still in situ!

As he uncovered it, the archaeologist in charge cautioned us not to take any close-up photographs of this very recent and very spectacular find.

I compromised and sneaked a shot of only half of the stone structure. The carved decorations are different on each side and on the top.
They think it is the base of the table used 2,000 years ago for reading the Torah scroll.

In this Photo from the Ministry of Tourism, you see what the whole country was excited about!
You will enjoy reading the authoritative article about the discoveries at Migdal, available here.
This is the paragraph about the menorah:

According to the excavation director, Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the IAA, “We are dealing with an exciting and unique find. This is the first time that a menorah decoration has been discovered from the days when the Second Temple was still standing. This is the first menorah to be discovered in a Jewish context and that dates to the Second Temple period/beginning of the Early Roman period. We can assume that the engraving that appears on the stone, which the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered, was done by an artist who saw the seven-branched menorah with his own eyes in the Temple in Jerusalem. The synagogue that was uncovered joins just six other synagogues in the world that are known to date to the Second Temple period.”

Ironically, this synagogue would not have been found if ground had not been broken by the Magdala Center, a Catholic pilgrim center planned to be built by the Legionaries of Christ/ Regnum Christi Movement. The Israel Antiquities Authority stepped in to do its always-necessary survey (before anything is built) and were so surprised to find all these treasures.

The Center will eventually be built around, not ON, the antiquities. But can you imagine how a synagogue from the time and place of Jesus will draw vast numbers of visitors of all faiths?!
Don't you just love how these things work? :-)



Reader Wil said...

Dina, how exciting this must be for you all to find such a treasure in such great condition. It's a silent witness to what happened 2000 years ago! Jesus would probably also have visited this synagoge. Thank you for this very interesting post.

Dina said...

Reader Wil, woa, wait! I'm not sure who you refer to as "you all." Just to be clear, the synagogue was found by the OTHER group (all hired laborers, not volunteers by the way). Our Tiberias dig group just went there to visit. [Boohoo]

Robin said...

What an incredible find, I remember reading about it in the papers. How lucky you are to see it.

Pietro said...

Dina, that stone with carved decorations is absolutely astonishing. Thanks for this informative and interesting post.

Dimple said...

Dina- I am overcome with emotion! How exciting! Thank you for sharing this.

Jedediah said...

I would love to visit that site, it must be so exciting to see such a treasure unearthed.

Sylvia K said...

How wonderful to be a part of the dig group and get to see, first hand so many wonderful things from such a distant past. Love your photos and your descriptions!

Have a great week!


Martha Z said...

What a wonderful and exciting find. I hope it does not lead to friction and controversy.

Marie Höglund said...

It seems to be a really exciting place there :-)

Petrea said...

Fantastic! What do you think? The Franciscans will be good stewards, I hope.

jeannette stgermain said...

Dina, what an awesome find! I understand your boohoo - so thank you for sharing this with us, and sneaking in the pic!!!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

That is very exciting. Such complexity and overlapping, and antiquity is something that I have a hard time getting my head around.

kristines said...

Yes, dear Dina ... I do just love how all this works together!!! WOW! And, you were there ... very cool indeed!

Jossie said...

Your world is so exciting and interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Cloudia said...

This thrilled me!

Oh thank you, Dina

Shalom & Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Kay said...

This is such a remarkable find. What a wonderful experience for you to go and visit this dig and see what had been discovered for yourself. It's really fabulous to see the carving of the menorah. Wow!

Arija said...

Dina, this is so wonderfully exciting and I totally agree, The Lord works in mysterious ways creating wonders of synchronicity.

FA said...

What an incredible experience that must have been for you. I'm glad that you had the opportunity. What a blessing! I'm always in awe of this sort of thing since we have very little in the U.S.that is "old".

Hilda said...

Your last few paragraphs had my hair standing on end. I would like to think that it was all more than just coincidence. Wonder-full.

Jew Wishes said...

A first century synagogue...I have chills going through my body.

These photos are mind boggling, so extraordinary and beautiful, so filled with history...and mystery.

The stone carvings...amazing.

spacedlaw said...

An amazing find. It must feel great to be part of the discovery.

Sara said...

Wow, very exciting indeed!

*SparkleMirror* Kiln-Fired Art Studio said...

How magnificent a find, Dina! This is incredibly exciting, and you are there with the inside scoop... I have a friend with first-hand experience in this. How wonderful.
This post is just mind-blowing... I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.
Thanks so much Dina!