Despite the great deal of fanfare surrounding its discovery, the third century C.E. Christian prayer hall discovered at Megiddo looks like anything but an archaeological tourist site. Likely the oldest church ever found in the Holy Land,* it is located under the Megiddo prison, leading the spectacular discovery to be covered up again until the site can be developed properly. Plans have been made to relocate the prison just over a mile to the west, but the construction of a tourist site around the church has not yet begun. An international tender seeking out an investor to construct and manage the tourist site is expected this week, and will serve as a major step in making the site available to the public. Project manager Gad Yaakov expects 500,000 tourists to visit the site in the first year alone, and expects the numbers to rise over the following years. Bids on developing the site for tourists must be submitted by June 5.
The structure featured mosaics with Christian symbols such as fish and a dedicatory inscription “to God Jesus Christ.” Dated to around 230 C.E., the find was considered important enough to Israel President Moshe Katsav that when he visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in November 2005, he took pictures of the newly discovered mosaic floor with him to present to the pontiff.