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Discover Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, a Jewish settlement on the northwestern shore of Lake Kinneret two thousand years ago, and perhaps the birthplace of Mary Magdelene










The most important episodes of the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome, which lasted from 66 to 71 AD, are recorded in Josephus Flavius' book "Jewish War." We read about the heroic and futile defenses of settlements like Yodfat, Gamla, and Masada. A great deal of scientific and fiction literature has been written about these events, as well as films based on them. These names represent watershed moments in the Jewish people's selfless struggle against cruel conquerors. Why do so few people remember what happened in Magdala? There's a reason for this!


In his famous book, Josephus Flavius makes no mention of the name Magdala. He does, however, have a detailed description of a large city called Tarichea. The Greek name T translates as "canned fish" or "pickled fish." That is, this settlement served as a hub for fishing and the trade of fresh and processed fish. Tarichea was 30 states (about 6 kilometers) from Tiberias, according to the historian. It's just that it's not obvious to the south or north of it.


Tarichea is located south of Tiberias not so far from River Jordan, according to Pliny the Elder's Natural History. However, Suetonius mentions two powerful Galilean cities - Gamla and Tarichea - in his work "The Twelve Caesars," in the chapter dedicated to Titus Flavius, located opposite each other and separated by the waters of the Lake of Ginosar. That is, he claims Tarichea was in the northwest corner of the coast. The exact location of Magdala's ruins. The great writer Leon Feuchtwanger agrees, stating unequivocally that Tarichea is Magdala, which is located 6 kilometers north of Tiberias.


For the past 12 years, large-scale archaeological excavations have been taking place opposite the Migdal intersection under the patronage of the Vatican. Remains of a 1st century BC settlement with residential areas, streets, a market, a mooring for fishing boats, numerous cages for live fish, salting pools, and much more.

The presence of mikveh - ritual pools with running water - in residential areas, as well as the ruins of the synagogue, indicate that Jews lived in Magdala. There are visible traces of battles and the death of this city during the Jewish War.


As a result, there is little doubt that Magdala, also known as Tarichea, was located north of Tiberias. It's also worth noting that Flavius' description of the area around Tarichea corresponds to Magdala's current topography. Mount Arbel, which towers above the city, the vast valley of Ginosar to the north, and an important crossroads are all nearby.


The Jewish commander Joseph ben Matatyahu, also known as the Roman historian Josephus Flavius, attests to the heroic resistance of a small province to the legions of the mighty Roman Empire. From Jerusalem, Joseph was dispatched to Galilee to organize the defense. He was a gifted leader who oversaw the siege preparations, fortifying the city walls of Magdala, Gamla, and Yodfat long before the arrival of the Roman troops. Joseph chose Magdala, the largest and most prosperous of these cities, as his headquarters, with a population of over 40,000 people at the time.


Galilee was the starting point for the anti-Roman revolt of 66 AD. As a result, it was Galilee that the Romans first decided to pacify. To accomplish this, Joseph, the commander of this rebellious region's defense, had to be neutralized.


Flavius Vespasian, the Roman commander, was well aware of the name Joseph ben Matityahu. As soon as he learned that Joseph had gone to Yodfat, he dispatched his army to surround the city with a double ring of siege. The odds were stacked against Yodfat, but he resisted with tenacity. For six weeks, the Romans stood beneath the city's walls. Archaeologists discovered numerous Roman arrowheads and stone catapult balls. Aside from that, there are a lot of burnt bones of the city's defenders who were killed. This backs up Joseph's account of the Galileans' valiant resistance.


Almost all of Yodfat's defenders perished, according to his account. Seeing how bad things were, Joseph persuaded his remaining comrades-in-arms to cast lots and kill each other to avoid being taken, prisoner. And when he was the last man standing due to his cunning and resourcefulness, he simply came out of hiding and surrendered to the enemies. He managed to impress Vespasian with his prediction that he would soon become Emperor of Rome, despite being extremely intelligent and eloquent. In the future, Joseph, shackled, would watch the course of the Jewish war from the Roman camp. Let us suppose that when Vespasian became emperor, he released Joseph and gave him his last name, as was customary. Therefore, the whole world knows our great historian under the shameful name of a freed slave - Flavius ​​Josephus.


Magdala's turn came after Yodfat's defeat. Joseph describes the terrible bloody battle for her in his chronicle. Many armed people from all over Galilee joined the city's numerous inhabitants. Thousands of troops flocked to Magdala to defend it. They were, however, no match for the Roman legions in terms of armor and discipline, and were quickly dispersed by Roman cavalry. Magdala was walled on the land side, but the city was unprotected on the lakeside. This was exploited by the Romans. Titus, Vespasian's son, led 600 heavily armed horsemen around the city walls and into the city from the water. The Jewish militia was unable to put up a serious fight.


Panic ensued, followed by a massacre. There was no place to flee. On the ground, Roman infantry and archers fought against the city. On the water, there was no way out. Hundreds of defenders set sail in small fishing boats from the shore. They were, however, doomed. They were killed with arrows by Roman archers, and those who fell into the water and attempted to grab hold of the Roman rafts were chopped with swords and stabbed with long spears. "Many of them were discovered dead in the lake before reaching the shore, and many others were killed after they arrived." The entire lake was stained with blood and full of corpses, as no one survived. A few days later, a terrible stench spread throughout the neighborhood; her appearance was no less terrible; the shores were covered with the wreckage of ships and bloated bodies, which, decomposing under the hot rays of the sun, polluted the air, driving the Jews to despair but also inspiring disgust in the Romans. The naval battle had come to an end. In addition to those who had died earlier in the city, 6,500 people died at the time.


According to the details cited by Flavius Josephus, the blood simply freezes in the veins. Vespasian enslaved over forty thousand people. He chose how to deal with them based on two principles: "everything is permissible against Jews" and "one must always prefer the useful to the worthy if both cannot be combined." As a result, 1200 weak captives and elderly people were simply slaughtered. In Rome, 6,000 young and strong men were sent to dig a canal. The remaining 30,400 were simply sold into slavery. As you can see, the magnitude of this tragedy cannot be overstated. And, sadly, this tragic episode of the Jewish War has gone unjustly unnoticed.


Following the conquest of Magdala, the Roman legions proceeded to besiege Gamla. And there, too, the city's doomed defenders provided incredible resistance. Storming the city cost the Romans a lot of money. Many of them were killed. Nonetheless, Gamla fell. As an eyewitness, Flavius Josephus describes the mass suicide of the city's defenders.


Hundreds of doomed inhabitants threw themselves into the abyss, preferring death to shameful captivity, according to him. The only problem is that there is no such rock within the city walls from which to fall to the bottom of the gorge. The mountain's slope is steep, but not so steep that a fall would kill you. Furthermore, traces of Gamla's defense were discovered during archaeological excavations, but the remains of the defenders were not. It should be noted, however, that only a small portion of the ancient city's territory has been excavated to date.


In his book, Josephus mentions three times the dramatic decision of the fortress defenders to prefer death to shameful captivity. For the first time - in Yodfat, where the last fighters preferred death at the hands of their fellow fighters to captivity. The second time was the suicide of Gamla's defenders.


He placed the third and most dramatic story at the end of his amazing book. Joseph went into great detail about how Masada's defenders decided to commit suicide. The fiery speech of the rebel leader, Eliezer ben Yair, is both beautiful and convincing. Could a simple Jew, however, construct it following all of the rules of Roman rhetoric? Archaeologists also failed to discover the remains of thousands of Masada defenders. Even though the Dead Sea coast's desert climate preserves organic matter indefinitely.


And there's a strong impression that Joseph only told the truth about the events in Yodfat in which he was present. And, to persuade others about Gamla and Masada, he drew on his own experience, which was the most powerful in his difficult life. As if he blamed what he couldn't do on other, braver people, the defenders of other fortresses. Here's an example of a literary device.


Yes, in his historical work, Joseph Flavius was not afraid to expose himself as a traitor and a coward. And he left a disgraceful recollection of himself for centuries. But, perhaps, his actions were guided by the Almighty's hand. Perhaps he did all of this to fulfill his main mission: to tell future generations the truth about the terrible Jewish war, the resilience of the Jewish spirit, and the loyalty to their ancestors' religion. What would we know about this watershed moment in our people's history if it weren't for him? And it is in this act of his, writing the book "The Jewish War," which has survived the centuries, that he demonstrates his greatest bravery.


How about Magdala-Tarichea? And there was almost no fighting in Magdala. A large defenseless population was mercilessly exterminated by Roman soldiers. What kind of bravery is that? And that may be why Magdala's story is almost forgotten. The shocking truth about a brutal war. But we must also remember the dark chapters of our past. Our never-ending history...







The Magdala Sea of Galilee site contains the ruins of a Jewish fishing village that existed around two thousand years ago on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Christians revere the site because they believe the Magdalene Cell (Mary Magdalene), a prominent supporter of the Christian Jesus, lived there. According to Christian belief, she was the one who cared for Jesus' body after he was taken down from the cross, and she, along with Jesus' mother, was informed of his resurrection.


During archeological excavations for the construction of a church complex, the remains of an ancient synagogue dating from the first century AD, which is considered the oldest synagogue discovered in Galilee, were discovered in 2009, even before the Second Temple was destroyed. The "Stone from the Tower," a rectangular-shaped stone with one of the world's oldest lamp reliefs, is an unusual archeological find. This stone could be a three-dimensional representation of Jerusalem's Second Temple. This is the world's only archeological find of its kind, and no similar finds have been discovered since. The site now houses a replica of the stone (the original is kept in the warehouses of the Israel Antiquities Authority).


As a result of the extraordinary discoveries, the construction plans were altered, and the site now includes an archeological park as well as a magnificent church center.

Aside from the old synagogue, other complexes from the ancient settlement are notable: a market and shops, a wealthy house and a concentration of mikvahs that took advantage of the area's high groundwater level, a fishing district where many hooks and weights were discovered, chains, and a pier.


Duc in Altum - "Move to the Depth" - is the name of the church center, which combines a concentration of chapels (the chapel of the boat that commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat, chapels that commemorate various events from the New Testament). Another chapel is integrated into the ancient market on the ground floor of the center.

The complex will eventually include a visitor center, a guest house, and a restaurant.






When visiting the Magdala Sea of Galilee, we can expect to encounter many groups of pilgrims, so it is best to plan our visit around the less crowded areas (but it is not possible to guarantee the non-arrival of additional groups during the wait for a particular attraction to be vacated).


The ancient synagogue, the oldest excavated in Galilee and one of the few known from the first century AD in Israel, is the most important element for every tourist. Because the Christian Jesus traveled a lot in the Galilee settlements according to the New Testament, Christians believe he taught here as well. There were several rooms in the synagogue, including stone benches, a mosaic floor, and colorful plaster decorations on the walls. One of the replicas of the impressive "Stone from the Tower" can be found in the synagogue. The structure was not built to become a synagogue, but its purpose evolved. During the Great Revolt's preparations, the building was abandoned.


We'll pass the market complex and shops next to the synagogue of Magdala, which combine plastered pools and a rectangular well - their purpose may have been to store fishermen expelled from the nearby Sea of Galilee for processing and sale in the market.

From here, he made his way to the church center, which was dedicated in 2014. It is an impressive structure that can accommodate hundreds of visitors in its various parts. Explanatory leaflets in various languages can be purchased for a small fee.


Following the church center, we will approach the shores of the Sea of Galilee, passing through a residential district and a fishing district. A small bedbug allows exit from the Magdala complex and access to the water's edge (for those interested, there is also the option to turn right here and continue hundreds of meters along the Sea of Galilee to the junction through the salty carrier, and back along the road to the parking lot - but it is best to finish the visit).


We'll pass another archeological site with the Mikvah house on our way back to the car. There are four ancient mikvahs here, which took advantage of the Sea of Galilee's high groundwater level. There is also a mosaic floor in this complex.







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