Dear friends of Magdala:
As many of you know we are currently in the middle of the construction process of the Magdala guesthouse, and as we continue to move forward and see more progress I feel the need to better express the motivations behind this particular aspect of our project as well as answer some of the questions we have received from you. Here I will gladly answer to these questions.
From the very first time I visited Galilee I saw the immediate and great need to have additional hospitality available for tourists, and specifically one that catered to pilgrims. A personal example of this was the experience we had with the very first property we acquired, “Hawaii Beach”, which was a small holiday resort composed of bungalows built in the 60´s with little to no renovations. The growing numbers of pilgrims and visitors to the Holy Land displayed a great necessity to build new places of hospitality to cater to these groups in the Galilee.
Additionally, another reason that motivated us to continue ahead with our project was the fact that we realized we could enhance the experience of the Holy Land by offering a place of hospitality catering to the experience which pilgrims come to the Holy Land to seek. It is not enough to have a good bed to sleep in when visiting this area of the world. The place, the atmosphere, the staff, all influence for better or worse the result of the experience one is looking for.
From our involvement at Notre Dame of Jerusalem (www.notredamecenter.org) which exposed us to work with tourists, pilgrims and visitors from around the world, we know that what really magnifies the experience of the Holy Land is when visitors and pilgrims feel at home, in an atmosphere similar to what they are use to. Its not enough to offer a comfortable bed and a nice hotel while in the Holy Land. The place, the ambience, the staff, the spirituality of the place all influence whether a pilgrim will garner more of the fruits which he or she has come here seeking.
It is because of this reason that we had thought to extend the experience of Notre Dame of Jerusalem to the Galilee. What we never imagine was that apart from the natural beauty of the site, and the privilege of finding a property on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we would also uncover the ruins of the first-century town of Magdala.
Imagine! Now the visitors and pilgrims that stay in the guesthouse of Magdala will be able to spend all the time they need in this holy site. They will be able to wake up and admire the sunrise over the lake, just as Jesus would have done 2,000 years ago. They will be able to walk along the shoreline were He called his first disciples and to walk among the streets of first-century Magdala looking at the houses, plazas and marketplaces where Mary Magdalene, the first disciples, and the Jewish population from that time would have walked.
Lastly, and also part of what we wanted to create in Magdala, is a place of encounter, dialogue and coexistence, just as Notre Dame has always been known. It is our wish that whoever is a guest in Magdala can have the same beautiful experience: to meet people from all walks of life, of different cultures and faiths. We want all who visit Magdala to feel free to express their ideas and values. It is important that there are places like this in this region.
We don´t want people to think that Magdala´s guesthouse is simply a business for this would be a very shortsighted interpretation of its main purpose, and far from understanding the real significance, potential and impact that this building will have on all those who visit it and seek lodging within it.
My dear friends, I send you my most heartfelt thanks for your constant prayers and support!
Fr. Juan María Solana, LC