At Magdala By The Kinneret, Discoveries That Resonate With Jews And Christians
The most significant find to date is an altar stone believed to be a model of the Jerusalem Temple – created by a contemporary artist who saw it first-hand.
Who can ever tell what the future holds? Or where our lives will lead us?
Father Juan Solana has been running the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem for the Legionaries of Christ religious order for the past ten years. But back in 2004, when informed by the Vatican that he was being sent to Israel, the young, Mexican-born Catholic priest found the prospect daunting, and even a bit frightening. For not only was Israel in the middle of a violent intifada, but Father Juan didn’t know the language. Besides, there were problems at Notre Dame that he felt he didn’t have the experience to solve. Simply put – he was afraid that he wasn’t quite up to the task.
Before setting out for the Middle East, Father Juan flew to Rome for a bit of extra spiritual strengthening. Entering a small chapel in the Vatican, he found himself in front of an unfamiliar altar. As he prayed, he raised his eyes and looked up at the mosaic on the wall, a scene on the Sea of Galilee in which Jesus rebukes his disciple Peter. Above it, there was a quote from the Gospels: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
From that moment on, Father Juan knew that he was on the right path. Even so, in his wildest dreams he couldn’t have imagined just how right it would be. For once in the Holy Land, chance led him to a unique and marvelous discovery.
Father Juan spent one of his first nights in Israel on the shores of Lake Kinneret. Walking near the water at dawn, he saw a fisherman netting his nets in front of him. And he began to dream about what he could accomplish in the Holy Land.
Soon Father Juan learned that Christian pilgrims to Israel made two major stops: they explored Jerusalem’s holy sites, and followed in the footsteps of Jesus around Lake Kinneret. Obviously, what was needed was another Notre Dame Center, or something similar, in the Galilee.
In 2005, after learning that a property called “Hawaii Beach Hotel” in the village of Migdal north of Tiberias was being sold, Father Juan began the long and complicated process of purchasing the property. Detailed plans for a worship center complete with guesthouse and restaurant were drawn up, and in 2009 construction began on the foundations.