Dear Friends of Magdala,
Let me share with you today a brief story about the history of Magdala, which has caused many to laugh, and others to consider it a strange and curious detail. I refer to the fact that the first plot of land we purchased for Magdala was a small resort that Israelis frequented for summer holidays. It´s name was “Hawaii Beach.” This resort at the edge of the shore of the Sea of Galilee was exactly on the area where we discovered the synagogue of Magdala and built Duc in Altum.
It was with great surprise that we have discovered lately that “Hawaii Beach” was in fact a very popular destination. It was built in the sixties and consisted of a restaurant and about 50 bungalows. Through the years, other buildings were added — although some were never used.
We also found out it was one of the first summer vacation hotels in Israel and “hot spot” to visit in summer time. Among its clients were many of Israel´s top politicians of the time and even, as we were told, a former Israeli president.
We recently had a casual encounter with the person who, at the time of “Hawaii Beach,” was responsible for the construction permits of the area. He told us that they had only allowed the property owners to build bungalows above ground because the municipality thought there might be archeology in the area. If only they know the treasure hidden beneath that resort.
One of the former owners, a man of a Jewish-Iraqi descent, told us that his grandfather use to have orange groves on the property. At the time, he would harvest the oranges, and on different days, head to Beirut, Damascus, or Jerusalem to sell them. This fact helps to visualize the strategic and central location of Magdala and the Sea of Galilee. Back in Jesus time its location was strategic as well — this is why His message reached far and wide in through the Middle East in such a short span of time.
I would like to reflect on two things with you today. The first I take from Pope Francis who says, “…time is superior to space…” and continues farther ahead in Evangelii Gaudium, no. 223, “This principle helps us work long term, without obsession for immediate results.”
Who would have imagined that below the bungalows of “Hawaii Beach” there laid ruins from the first century? Who would have known that a religious congregation from Mexico would arrive on site with plans to build a pilgrimage center? Who would consider how many events would need to align at this site for Magdala to be born? The answer from my point of view is time, guided and driven by Superior Providence.
For this reason, what we now see is temporary. We have to consume our time, by doing things and planning projects, but must always remember that time can change it all — and that things have a more transcendent dimension by the love in which we do them.
The second reflection follows the first. We have to invest in the human person. The construction of Magdala has required a lot of effort, planning and project development. It has been a long and arduous journey, but the buildings are not the most important things. What is truly important are people. For this we thank God — for the persons that have become involved in Magdala, for our friends and donors, for the volunteers, and for each and every one of our visitors. It is in each of these persons that there is a plan of God that is being realized. Even if it may not be tangible to us, it is very real.
With eyes of faith and with a more transcendent gaze we look to this place, formerly known as “Hawaii Beach”, observing how God´s plans are slowly taking place. Here, each one of us, my dear friends, has a place.
We ask for your prayers,
Fr. Juan María Solana, LC
From Hawaii Beach to today