The Jerusalem Post

Magdala Hotel – A modern resort on a historic site

- • BY TALY SHARON Magdala Hotel, Migdal, www.magdalahot­el. com 0747003204 reservatio­ The writer was a guest of Magdala Hotel.

Magdala is an out-of-the-ordinary resort hotel situated on the northweste­rn coast of the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias. It is a resort hotel with exclusive rooms and swimming pool, a spiritual center, an archaeolog­ical garden and dining facilities.

Magdala is recognized as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene and the hotel was originally designed to host pilgrims. Yet, archaeolog­ical findings on site including an ancient synagogue delayed its constructi­on. The COVID-19 pandemic turned the plans around and the hotel was instead opened for Israelis.

Magdala Hotel is on an internatio­nal standard. It was designed by Sofia Aspe, the Latin-American interior designer, and local architect Rannin Nakhleh-Koury. As a result of the unusual archaeolog­ical finds, the constructi­on plans were modified so the site now incorporat­es an archaeolog­ical park and adjacent to it a magnificen­t church center.

The hotel’s structure and special design stands out from first approachin­g the entrance. It combines new and modern elements with a historic and ancient look from every corner of the hotel. The hotel lobby is impressive with its the glass walls through which one overlooks the spectacula­r views of the Arbel Cliff, the remains of the ancient synagogue, the Sea of Galilee, groomed gardens, water fountains. The highlight is in the center of the lobby, an original first century fish salt pond built from the ancient market center of Magdala.

The hotel rooms are spacious; most include two full beds, private bathroom and a balcony. Modern amenities provided include air-conditioni­ng, cable TV, free WiFi, safe deposit box, mini fridge and coffee-making facilities. The bathroom has a double sink, hair dryer and a tropical rain showerhead, and quality Dead Sea Ahava toiletries are provided.

We stayed in a family room – two rooms with connecting doors. One was equipped with two full beds and the other with a king size bed and a sofa. We changed into the robes that awaited us and had a glass of local red wine on the balcony overlookin­g the gardens to the sounds of the water from the garden’s fountains.

The seasonal swimming pool opens early, at 9 a.m.; I was able to swim before breakfast. It is a nice-sized pool and was still empty so I could do my laps. Perhaps when the hotel is full it may get a bit crowded.

Breakfast was served in the dining room above the lobby. It is one of the best buffet breakfasts in Israel – in my opinion – both in terms of variety and quality: fish, cheeses, cereals and a warm buffet with cheese lasagna, stuffed tomatoes, Burek, shakshouka and another buffet of sweets.

Dinner is usually served in the dining room as well, but because the hotel had low occupancy, we were referred to the nearby chef restaurant Magdalena run by chef Yosef (Zuzu) Hana that serves high-end Arab fusion food. We got a voucher from the hotel for a 3-course set menu.

The food was remarkable. Each plate won a round of wow cheers from us both for presentati­on and taste. Starting from the bread basket, that included tender seasoned pita bread and an extremely long sesame breadstick, with starters such as cauliflowe­r florets with amba-tahini, mushroom medley with truffle oil, beef carpaccio, seabass fillet and more, and ending with homemade traditiona­l kanafeh. A totally indulgent meal. Note that the food at Magdala and Magdalena is not kosher.

Back to the morning, after breakfast, we explored the hotel. We started at the archaeolog­ical site accessed from the lobby, Magdalah, which was a thriving Galilean fishing village from the first century CE. As a guest staying at the hotel and available for external visitors as well, a tour is available of the ruins of the Old City and the Migdal

Synagogue – one of the seven synagogues found throughout Israel from this period – and this one is the best preserved of them all. It includes a special stone that shows all the Temple features including the menorah, oil jug and more, village life, the market, houses, mikvaot and the remains of the city with some nice mosaics. There are also the remains of an ancient synagogue, from the first century CE – considered the oldest synagogue discovered in the Galilee – that existed even before the destructio­n of the Second Temple.

An unusual archaeolog­ical find is the

“Stone from the Tower,” a rectangula­r-shaped stone with a lamp relief, among the oldest in the world. It is possible that this stone is a three-dimensiona­l representa­tion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This is the only archaeolog­ical find of its kind. The site currently displays a replica of the stone while the original is stored in the Antiquitie­s Authority’s warehouses.

Next, we headed to the church center called Duc in Altum, “Move to the Depth,” 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). On the ground floor of the center is another chapel integrated into the ancient market. The center overlooks the Sea of Galilee and is very impressive.

Magdala Hotel and its grounds are still undergoing developmen­t. A new restaurant is in the works and developmen­t of the beach is still in progress. There is access to the nearby beach, but it is not yet completed (and no lifeguard on duty).

Health and fitness retreats and a cross-cultural culinary festival are planned to take place . There will be a lot more to look out for soon.

 ?? (Courtesy) ?? AN ARCHAEOLOG­ICAL SITE accessed from the lobby shows a thriving fishing village from the first century CE.
(Courtesy) AN ARCHAEOLOG­ICAL SITE accessed from the lobby shows a thriving fishing village from the first century CE.
 ?? (Courtesy) ?? THE MAGDALA’S swimming pool opens at 9 a.m.
(Courtesy) THE MAGDALA’S swimming pool opens at 9 a.m.
 ?? (Courtesy) ?? THE MAGDALA complex near Tiberias.
(Courtesy) THE MAGDALA complex near Tiberias.
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