MAGDALA, Israel (Christian Examiner) - The land Father Juan Solana purchased six years ago near the Sea of Galilee was intended for a Christian retreat center he wanted to build, but the priest couldn't have guessed what was already there.
Archaeologists have dug up what they believe is Magdala, an ancient first century village and synagogue which is considered the home of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus Christ's closest followers and a witness to his crucifixion and resurrection.
According to Israel Today, during the time of Jesus' ministry, Magdala was the only town west of the Sea of Galilee along the shore, before Tiberius was built, and just south of Capernaum, where Jesus met Peter and not far from the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 15:39 describes Jesus arriving at the town when he "took a boat, and came to the coast of Magdala."
Solana was required by Israeli law to excavate before building his planned retreat center, and now with each mound of dirt that's moved or each bit of stone chiseled off, experts are closer to knowing what life was like 2,000 years ago in an area of Israel where Jesus himself most likely walked.
Experts believe Magdala may be one of the most important finds discovered in Israel in the last 50 years. A bowl estimated to be more than 2000 years old was uncovered which archaeologists say Jesus may have used to wash his hands before praying in the synagogue.
Also very possible is that the unearthed synagogue is the same one mentioned in the Scriptures where Jesus preached.
CNN reported the Magdala synagogue is the only one that's been discovered in the area matching that time period. Lined with mosaic flooring and accented with frescoes, it is considered elegant and opulent.
"It is not for me," Solana said. "This is for millions of people that will come see this will enjoy this as I did and hopefully will be able to discover our common roots."