The Migdal Synagogue is an ancient synagogue, located in Israel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee part of the archaeolgy site of ancient Magdala. The synagogue was in use in the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE), one of several found to date from that period and includes a carved stone representing the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that was located in the Temple, making it the oldest such representation in a Jewish context and one that appears to have been made by an individual who had seen the Menorah in the Temple. It is one of the Oldest synagogues in Israel.
The historic synagogue was discovered in 2009 during a salvage dig conducted by Dr. Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the Israel Antiquities Authority at the location of a new hotel at Migdal Beach, the site of ancient Magdala. Magdala was a fishing town that was mentioned in Jewish documents of the period as a major site during the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and is also mentioned in Christian texts as the home community of Mary Magdalene.
The synagogue covers approximately 120 square metres (1,300 sq ft). As in other ancient synagogues, it has stone benches built against the walls. The walls were decorated with elaborately designed and colored frescos and the floor is partially made of mosaics. The Migdal site is just one of seven synagogues known to date back to the Second Temple period, with the relative scarcity of such houses of worship explained by the prevailing religious practice of making pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Shalosh regalim—the three annual pilgrimage festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks) and Sukkot (Tabernacles)—as the primary form of worship at the time.
A representative of the company developing the hotel expressed the firm's delight at the find, which it hopes to integrate into a visitor center that would attract tourists of all faiths from Israel and from around the world. The architect of the project is Mattityahu Avshalomov architect, who redesigned the complex to accommodate the antiquities and the synagogue to integrates it to an archaeological park open to the public.
The Magdala stone, a carved stone relief shows a seven-branched menorah flanked by a pair of two-handled jugs and a pair of columns. Dr. Avshalom-Gorni called the discovery "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".
- Communicated by a spokesperson of the Israel Ministry of Tourism (September 2009). "One of the Oldest Synagogues in the World was Exposed at Migdal (9/13)". Israel Antiquities Authority. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
- Flower, Kevin. "Ancient synagogue found in Israel", CNN, September 11, 2009. Accessed September 16, 2009.
- Note the carving is correctly described as a relief, not an engraving or intaglio
- The large six petal rosette relief atop the stone was a common design in Jewish funerary art during the Second Temple period. Its meaning is yet unknown but it is also found among the ruins of Gamla on a lintel stone flanked by two palm trees.