Synagogue of Magdala
Entrance Hall (from onsite plaque): “A rectangular room that apparently served as a study hall (Beit Midrash). A low bench ran along the walls of the chamber. In its center was a square-shaped stone of chalk that seems to have served as a table.”
Archaeologists date the synagogue to the 1st century AD, before the destruction of the Second Temple (Herod the Great’s Temple). It is one of only seven synagogues discovered in the Holy Land from this period.
This stone furnishing was located in the center of the synagogue’s entrance hall. From onsite plaque: “All of its five faces are decorated in relief with a variety of patterns that form a model of the Temple and the special utensils that were used in it. This stone is the only known example of its kind; none resemble it. It apparently served in the synagogue as a table, upon which the Torah Scroll was placed when read.”
From onsite plaque: “Outstanding among the ornaments decorating the table is a seven-branched Menorah standing on a three-legged base with a description of the sacrificial altar on its facade. This relief joins the small number of Menorah decorations known to scholars, the first to have been discovered in Galilee from this period. This is the earliest example of a Menorah discovered in a Jewish religious building in Galilee.”
Uncovering the Magdala stone: The Magdala settlement began between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and ended in the 3rd century AD.
Torah-scroll store chamber (from onsite plaque): “The study hall led to a chamber with a mosaic-paved floor and walls covered with colorful frescos.
View West: A second synagogue was discovered across the road from Magdala in December 2021. It was the first time archaeologists uncovered two synagogues from the 1st century AD on the same site. You can read about the discovery in this Jerusalem Post article: “2nd-Temple-period synagogue found where Gospel’s Mary Magdalene was born.” From the article: “The building is the second synagogue from the time uncovered in Migdal, a prominent Jewish settlement that was also the main base of Flavius Josephus, historian and anti-Roman rebel commander.”