Magdala: a game-changing discovery beside the Sea of Galilee
Many people come to Israel wanting to “walk where Jesus walked”, and of course, you can. You can visit Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem which all have sites mentioned in the accounts of Yeshua’s life, even if the exact earth he stood on is now buried under some 2000 years of accumulated soil and debris, far beneath the surface. For example, we have found the remains of a third century synagogue in Capernaum which is thought to have been built on the foundations of one that Yeshua would have taught in, but there is always a bit of debate and uncertainty about whether or not the sites are truly the real thing, and it’s usually quite difficult to prove one way or the other.
But there is one spot that has been unearthed recently that we can be sure that Jesus stood, that was recently found (as these things often are) by accident. It’s called Magdala.
An exciting discovery
The shores of the sea of Galilee, or as it is known in Israel, the Kinneret, is prime real estate and hotels host millions of tourists from all around the world year in and year out. So it is no big surprise that yet another plan was made to build yet another resort in the area of Migdal, where Mary Magdalene came from (Migdal means tower, and Magdalene means one from Migdal). The site has been identified with the ancient city of Migdal Nunia which means fish tower, and was once also known as Taricheae with a related meaning of the place of salted fish.
They started to clear the area and dig deeply in order to lay foundations for the huge tourist center, when, to everyone’s amazement, they uncovered a first century synagogue that had been covered up since the year 67 CE, when Roman General Vespasian destroyed the town during the Great Jewish War.
And here is how we can be so sure that he must have been inside that very construction – we are told multiple times that he taught in all the synagogues in the area:
“Then he went around throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom.” Matthew 4:23
“Now Yeshua was going around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness.” Matthew 9:35
“Yeshua returned in the power of the Spirit to the Galilee, and news about Him went out through all the surrounding region. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone was praising Him.” Luke 4:14-15
When people come to visit Israel, I love to show them this synagogue: a place where first century Judaism meets Yeshua of Nazareth.
You can clearly see the construction, the remains of the painted walls, and even the mosaic on the floor. You can see the shape and dimensions of what is left of the synagogue, and imagine how it must have looked in the time of Yeshua. You can see the rows where the people would sit to listen, and the place where the rabbi taught. You can see the actual place where Yeshua would have taught the word of God. Right there, in that synagogue. It’s amazing.
Historians have debated the point in history when synagogues came into use as places of worship, since it was assumed that the temple in Jerusalem was the center of collective worship while it was still standing, and that New Testament accounts that synagogues existed and functioned alongside the temple as places of worship were incorrect. The New Testament claims that Yeshua taught the Scriptures in local synagogues and at the temple in Jerusalem, and now archaeologists are digging up more and more proof that there were indeed many synagogues operating as places of worship in the first century while the temple still stood. They have found seven from that time period now, scattered across Israel. This find validates the veracity of the New Testament assertions that Yeshua was preaching in local synagogues, decades before the temple was destroyed.
The Magdala Stone
The Magdala stone itself is a low table or stand on which to place the Torah within the synagogue structure, and has a very important design. It is the only remaining artistic impression of the second temple that was created while the temple was still standing, before 70 CE. The artist will have seen the temple with his own eyes, since Jewish people made the journey to Jerusalem three times a year for Passover, Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). That means that the Magdala Stone is an artist’s impression of the temple, created by an actual eyewitness.
The New York Times reported the incredible effect that the discovery had on Israeli experts: “I approached the stone, and I could not believe what I was seeing,” said Rina Talgam, a Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor specializing in ancient art of the Middle East… “they said I stood there for three hours.” Ms. Talgam concluded that she was looking at a three-dimensional depiction of the Temple of Herod, including its most sacred inner sanctum, known as the Holy of Holies.” 
This discovery was of huge significance for Jewish researchers, and very exciting for archaeologists for whom the second temple is of great import. It is also exciting for all of us who love the Bible, as it gives even more archaeological proof that the temple is no figment of the Jewish imagination (as many Muslims have asserted) but a verifiable historical reality.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, a coin was found in the synagogue that was minted in Tiberius in 29 CE . Like the Magdala Stone itself, the image of the menorah features on the coin, affirming that it was a common symbol of Judaism in the first century . The temple menorah was stolen and carted off to Italy by the Romans, as depicted in the Arch of Titus, but clearly it was of great significance in Jewish thinking to feature so strongly in designs of the time.
This coin is also of inestimable value to those of us who love the Lord – it seems almost as if it was left there on purpose to be found, as concrete evidence that the synagogue was definitely up and running at the time of Yeshua’s ministry. It is interesting that these discoveries were made in the last few years, at a time in which the historicity of the temple and of the accounts of Yeshua are being questioned. Just as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered shortly after the time when it was being suggested that the Jewish people had recently invented the Bible for political expediency, showing that they had done nothing of the sort, Magdala is God’s gift to the world today. It gives us more solid evidence that the Bible is not just a fairytale. Yeshua certainly did preach and embody the good news both in the temple in Jerusalem, and also in synagogues in the Galilee, and there are billions of us who are extremely glad that he did.
This article originally appeared on One For Israel, and reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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What is the Lord’s day?
The Book of Revelation is a Jewish, anti-Roman text that comes to us from the first century. The Jewish Christ acts as the High Priest of the heavenly tabernacle, walking amidst seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1:10-13). He speaks a message of warning and encouragement to seven real assemblies struggling to be loyal to Israel’s God in Christ Jesus, as residents of an unapologetically pagan Roman Empire.
In one of the visions characteristic of Jewish apocalyptic tradition, John finds himself “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). In view of modern controversies many Christ-followers wonder whether it was the seventh or the first day of the Israelite week that John had in mind.
Both options, Sunday (1st day) and the Sabbath Day (7th day), while possible are a bit problematic for several reasons. One of them is that while the Sabbath Day does belong to the Lord it was never called the “Lord’s Day” before. On the other hand, Sunday, the Day that the resurrection of Jesus had become public, was never referred to as the “Lord’s Day” either. It could be argued, however, that “There is first time for everything”, but I would like to submit to you another possibility that should be also considered.
“The Lord’s Day” is none other than “The Day of the Lord” spoken of so often by the prophets of Israel (Is. 2:12-22). According to Isaiah this is the day when justice finally prevails as the God of Israel judges his enemies and rewards his children with peace and prosperity. So, was this Saturday or Sunday? Neither. It was the Day of the Lord.
This article originally appeared on Israel Study Center and reposted with permission.
One of Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg's greatest passions is building of bridges of trust, respect and understanding between Christians and Jews, overcoming centuries of difficult, but almost always joined history. He strongly believes that both Hebrew Bible and the New Testament scriptures have much to teach both communities. Outside of his expertise in the ancient languages (Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, Syriac and Old Church Slovanic), he has a command of three other modern languages (English, Russian and Hebrew).
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Jews in Brazil mourn death of Catholic leader, friend
The Jewish Community in Brazil is mourning together with the Catholic Church the passing of Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns who stood up to dictators and fought for democracy.
Cardinal Arns, who died last week at the age of 95, has been loved and admired by the Jewish community in Brazil since October 1975 when he defied the dictatorship of the military regime in a joint prayer with Reform Rabbi Henry Sobel and Presbyterian Pastor Reverend James Wright.
Cardinal Arns was protesting the murder of Jewish journalist Vladimir Hertzog. Hertzog was jailed shortly before, in a political prison. He was accused by the Brazilian government of being “subversive and communist,” accusations common against anyone who opposed the cruel military regime in Brazil between 1960 to the early 1980s.
Hertzog died in prison – the official ruling that he had committed suicide. However, Cardinal Arns did not “buy” the version, and later on, when Hertzog’s body was being prepared for burial by the Jewish community, Sobel noted marks of torture on the journalist’s body. He decided then that the burial would take place in the center of the Jewish cemetery, instead of the distant corner, according to Jewish tradition in cases of suicide.
That decision cast the official version given by the Military Police as a lie. The common public mass lead by Arns in the major Catholic Church in São Paulo, together with Sobel and Wright, was a turning point in the eventual restoration of true democracy in Brazil.
The leaders of the Jewish Community in Brazil say that Arns was a great leader and a defender of democracy and freedom of religion, especially during Brazil’s darkest ages. He played an important part in the fight against dictatorship.
In an interview with Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, Fernando Lottenberg, said the Jewish community expresses “regret and solidarity with the Catholic community for this irreparable loss.”
Rachel (Rachely) Scapa, studied journalism at the Open University TLV under Yedioth Aharonoth's journalist Dudi Goldman. Rachel served as news correspondent for various radio stations abroad, including BBC 3 Counties and Voice of America, both in English and Portuguese, giving the best reports from Israel. Currently she has two radio shows - one in Portuguese, which she has had for more than 13 years, presenting News from Israel and the ME. In the other, in Hebrew, she presents Brazilian music, on an Israeli radio station. Rachely is also a columnist for a Christian newspaper in Brazil, distributed over the triple border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
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Will Donald Trump’s presidency blow up Israel’s real estate bubble?
If America’s President Elect, Donald Trump, follows up on his promises towards Israel by allowing the construction of houses in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, we might see dramatic changes in a variety of Israel’s internal affairs.
One of the strongest topics in Israel’s politics is the issue of housing and the cost of living. The last four times Israel held elections, this particular topic was front and center. Today, a young couple, who is not getting financial help from their parents, can forget about buying an apartment in the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem area.
The prices in the last 15 years have gone up significantly. It’s impossible to find a three-bedroom apartment in the northern part of Tel Aviv that costs less than $750,000. Our past two finance ministers promises to all builders to build without the typical red-tape, thus help the supply catch up to the demand. But not much has changed.
The prices are not going down. In fact, they are going up, rising more than ten percent from one election to the next. Israelis feel paralyzed as they view the prices going higher and higher. Nearly everywhere in Israel you can see people who are building more and more houses, but we still can’t keep up with the high birth rate and the new immigrants arriving each and every year.
Judea and Samaria—the West Bank
However, there’s one place in Israel where no one is building any houses. In fact, there’s been a freezing of any construction plan in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem for over eight years now. This is the same construction freezing that the outgoing U.S. president, Barack Obama, firmly demanded and constantly sent the Secretary of State, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, to confirm that Israel was indeed following up on this.
There were many ridiculous situations where John Kerry caused political crises between Netanyahu and the White House over the expanding of settlements, building a school, or a kindergarten in Israel. It seemed it was easier and more important for President Obama to confront Israel over building a synagogue in Hebron than to deal with genocide in Syria, the Hamas threat against Israel, or the expansion of ISIS.
I believe that the minute Israel is free to build new cities in the land of the Bible (Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem) and to expand the settlement in our forefather’s city, Hebron, acting as a sovereign nation, without worry about the international pressure, then blessing will come to all the other parts of Israel. In my opinion, the goal of the government of Israel should be to reach 1,500,000 settlers in five years. That’s the way to pop the real estate bubble which is so difficult for us to bear.
New Attitude in US towards Israel
Israelis have high expectations from the new Trump administration. The main reason for this is not only the promises towards Israel that were made during the election campaign, but something deeper. If the President-elect would follow up on his main campaign promise and focus on America’s internal affairs, it would allow those who are close to him to change America’s attitude towards Israel, which has grown negative over the past eight years.
Vice President Elect, Mike Pence, is a big friend of Israel. He is the clear representative of the evangelical Christians in the U.S. He is also a supporter of the settlements in Judea and Samaria and made an amazingly positive video about Israel just before the election.
In addition to Pence, the closest people to Donald Trump are Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. All of them believe in Israel’s right to inhabit its own country. When visiting Israel, they always make sure to visit Judea and Samaria and donate to the Zionist settlement fund.
The Jewish Influence on Trump
Even more close to Donald Trump is his own lawyer, David Friedman. Mr. Friedman was also Donald Trump’s consultant of Israel’s affairs during his campaign. He is an Orthodox Jew who believes in the complete state of Israel. He’s also on the list of possible candidates for the United States Ambassadorship to Israel.
And let’s not forget Jared Kushner, the Orthodox Jewish and pro-Israel husband of Ivanka (Yael, her Jewish name). Trump’s son-in-law had a lot of influence in the election campaign and its outcome. This is a couple who truly loves Israel.
That’s why I hope there will be a dramatic change in the way America treats the construction of settlements in the Biblical State of Israel; from a policy of pressuring Israel to freeze the construction to a policy of pressuring Israel to begin the construction.
Israel is already trained to not get its hopes up because of failed promises made by former presidents. Maybe this time, because of those who are very close to Donald Trump, we will see the first administration in the history of the US to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, and we will see the United States Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
For me personally, it’s going to be difficult because I’ll have to drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to apply for a U.S. Visa. But you can trust that I’ll drive all the way there with a big smile on my face.
Editor’s note: Since Moti wrote this, already 1,400 new apartments have been approved for East Jerusalem (though the initial reports have already been denied). This is a direct result of the Trump victory, as Israeli officials are no longer concerned about U.S. backlash. For more reading see: http://roncan.net/2gsjON8
This article originally appeared on Tiferet Yeshua, November 28, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Moti serves on the pastoral staff at Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv.
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Commentary on Parashat Vayishlach (And He Sent)
Beresheet (Genesis 32: 3 (4 in the Hebrew Bible)-36:43)
Has the Lord ever asked you to do something that terrified you, or that seemed bigger than you? In our parasha this week, God commands Jacob to go back to the Land that He promised to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob had fled the land in fear of his life over 14 years prior, after he tricked his brother, Esau, out of his birthright.
“And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who didst say to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will do well with you,’ I am unworthy of all the grace and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me, the mothers with the children. “For Thou didst say, ‘I will surely make it well for you, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” Genesis 32:10-12
Jacob knew that God was calling him to return to the Land. He also knew of the possible danger that he would face from Esau. Yet, Jacob knew God! He knew of God’s promises and faithfulness; he knew that God was his protector and defender and therefore he was willing to trust the Lord in this matter.
I am currently leading a group of 74 people from the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, and India on a life-changing tour in Israel. The other day as we were leaving the Galilee, I asked the people to imagine that they are in a boat in the middle of the sea, and that Yeshua is beckoning them to “come.” Would they be willing to leave the boat to do what seems impossible and walk on the water?
The boat here represents our security and comfort. It’s the obvious vessel that we trust to carry us on the sea. Yet, just like it was with Peter who took the step of faith and walked on the water, so it is with us! Are we willing to leave our “boat” – our place of comfort and security – and walk by faith?
We can do all things in Messiah Yeshua who gives us strength. But if we take our eyes off of Him, we are guaranteed to slowly sink… but we can find great comfort that, just like Peter who cried, “Lord save me!” so it will be for us.
In closing, let us be encouraged by Jacob’s example to remember God’s faithfulness, to step out of our comfort zone, and to trust in His endless grace.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, December 14, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.