JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Magdala from Arbel Cliffs. Magdala is traditionally identified as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2; John 20:1, 18). Recently (2009), Magdala was in limelight after a first century synagogue and perfume bottles from the same era were discovered.

According to Talmud, there are two Magdala: 1) Magdala Gadar (near Gadar east to the Sea of Galilee) and 2) Magdala Nunayya or "Magdala of the Fishes" (near Tiberias west to the Sea of Galilee). Magdala Nunayya is identified as the Magdala of Mary the Magdalene. After the destruction of Jerusalem Temple by Romans in first century AD, Magdala became the seat of one of the twenty-four priestly divisions. 

Records of a church at the site from 4th century are known. The name of ancient Magdala and therefore the location of the site was preserved along with the Arab village Al-Majdal that existed here until 1948. From the ancient synagogue (50 BC to 100 AD) of Magdala, archaeologists have unearthed a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), the likes of which have never been seen. It is the first menorah to be discovered  that dates to the Second Temple period. If the synagogue was active during first century, there is a very high chance that Jesus would have visited the site.

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