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Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is Israel's largest freshwater lake.  At 209 meters below sea level, it is the world's lowest freshwater lake and the second lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea.

For Accommodation in the Sea of Galilee, see Sea of Galilee hotels at BookingIsrael.com.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, and is called a "sea" by tradition.  The lake is also known as Sea of Kinneret, Lake Galilee or Lake Tiberias.

The Sea of Galilee is fed by underground springs, but its main source of water is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south.  Due to its low-lying position in the rift valley and surrounded by hills, the sea is prone to sudden violent storms.

The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris which linked Egypt with the northern empires.  The Greeks, Hasmoneans and Romans founded flourishing towns and settlements here.

Much of the Ministry of Jesus happened on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and many of his miracles were also recorded to have occurred here.  In 135 the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans, Bar Kokhba's Revolt, was put down.   The Romans responded by banning all Jews from Jerusalem and the center of Jewish culture and learning shifted to the region of the Kinneret, particularly to the town of Tiberias.   During the Byzantine Empire, the lake's significance in Jesus' life made it a major destination for Christian Pilgrims.

In 1909, Jewish Pioneers built their first Kibbutz, Kvutzat Kinneret, which trained Jewish immigrants in farming and agriculture.  The Kinneret pioneers established Kibbutz Degania.

Tourism is one of the Kinneret's most important economic activities.  The entire Lake is a popular vacation resort.  The many historical and spiritual sites around it, especially in Tiberias, are visited by foreign and local tourists.  Other economic activities include fishing in the lake and agriculture, particularly bananas.

Around the Sea of Galilee - The Teachings of Jesus

Various sites around the lake's perimeter, each more memorable than the next, were the settings for the preaching and miracles of Jesus including Walking on Water and Calming the Sea.

Mount of Beatitudes - refers to the hill where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  The traditional location is on the north western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The actual location of the Sermon on the Mount is not certain but the present side has been commemorated for more than 1600 years.  A Byzantine Church was erected in the 4th century and was used until the 7th century.   Remains of a monastery and cistern are still visible.  The current Roman Catholic Franciscan Chapel was built in 1938.

Tabgha - Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.  Christians of the early Byzantine period built monasteries, churches and shrines on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to commemorate the Ministry of Jesus and the miracles ascribed to him.  Tabgha is the traditional site of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish and is situated on the northern shore of the lake.  The earliest building is a small chapel from the 4th century CE, of which only part of its foundations has been uncovered.  During the 5th century a large monastery and church was built on the site, which were destroyed in the 7th century, probably during the Arab conquest of the country.  After excavations in the 1980s, the Church was restored to its Byzantine form, incorporating potions of the original mosaics.   A mosaic depicting a basket of bread flanked by two fish is displayed in front of the alter.  The Church belongs to the Order of the Benedictines.

Capernaum (in Hebrew Kfar Nahum) was a settlement on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  It was inhabited from 150 BC to about 750AD and the site is now in ruin.  The town is mentioned in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke, and is said to have been the home of the Apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John.  According to the New Testament, it is said that Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath.  The remains of a building which may have been a synagogue of that period have been found beneath the remains of a later synagogue that was built around the 4th or 5th century AD.  The ancient synagogue has two inscriptions, one in Greek and the other in Aramaic.  There are also carvings of five and six pointed stars and palm trees.  The small red domed Greek Orthodox Church of the Seven Apostles was built in 1931 and marks the site where Capernaum was relocated following the 746 earthquake.  The Church is dedicated to the seven apostles.  The Church of the House of Peter - the present Franciscan Church was build in 1990 over the site of the "Insula Sacra" to preserve the archaeological finds.

Bethsaida - According to the Gospel of John, the Disciples Peter, Philip and Andrew made their home here.   Some of the miracles linked to Jesus and the Bethsaida area include His Walking on Water, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, and it was here that Jesus was said to have cured a Blind Man.  The most significant find at Bethsaida is a 9th century BCE gate.

Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, was a prosperous fishing village at the time of Jesus. It is situated on the north-west side of the Sea of Galilee and today is a town called Migdal.  The ruins of this Roman village are now enclosed within a wall.  Archaeologist's uncovered remains dating from the time of Jesus, a monastery and a mosaic floor featuring a fisherman's boat.

Other important sites in the area are Kursi and Korazin.

The Baptismal site YARDENIT, the traditional site where Jesus was baptized, is situated at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan River flows out on its way to the Dead Sea is one of the most important sites in the
area. People from all over the world come to visit this unique Sacred Holy Area.  The Community Wall welcomes the visitor and describes the Baptism of Jesus with text taken from the New Testament.  A path has been opened allowing Pilgrims to observe the natural flora and fauna alongside the Jordan River enabling them to conduct services in the natural surrounding.  Empty bottles are available allowing visitors to take samples of the Holy Water as a memento.  Yardenit offers several baptismal sites for small groups as well as up to 1000 people at one time.

General Places to See around the Sea of Galilee:

Ein Gev - House of Anchors Fishing Museum was established in 1995 and shows examples of technology, artifacts relating to the fishing industry on the Sea of Galilee from ancient times to the present.  Relevant Biblical texts and background information on it fish population are also provided.  Outside the Museum, visitors can view a model of a first century wooden boat and there are also demonstrations of fishermen lowering their nets using ancient and modern techniques.   Visitors can also take a train tour around the Kibbutz.

Kibbutz Ginosar - Yigal Alon Center - the Museum introduces the visitor to the Galilee, its unique landscape and history.  It offers an audiovisual presentation, memorials to Israeli statesman and Military Commander, Yigal Alon.  A unique attraction is a 2000 year old boat that was discovered in the Sea of Galilee and restored (called the Jesus Boat).

The Galilee Experience Show - Let 4000 years of Galilee History come alive before your eyes.  See the stories of famous men and women who made history in the Galilee.

Boat Ride across the Sea of Galilee - there are numerous boats that cruise across the lake and that also serve as floating restaurants and discotheques.   For Christian Pilgrims, one of the highlights and an unforgettable spiritual experience is a cruise, on a traditional wooden boat, to the major Holy Sites with onboard prayer services and readings and a traditional meal of Loaves and Fish.

Kibbutz Degania Alef and Degania Beit are situated south of the Sea of Galilee.  The name Degania means "cornflower".  Degania Alef was founded in 1909 by immigrants from Roumania on land acquired by the Jewish National Fund.  Degania Alef was the first kibbutz/settlement based on communal living.  During the War of Independence, the Syrian Army reached the gates of the Kibbutz and a burnt Syrian tank remains on the site as a memorial.  Visit the old courtyard and see its first building as well as the small museum that chronicles life in Israel's first Kibbutz.  The Museum is housed in what was the first dining room.  Moshe Dayan was born at the Kibbutz.

Tiberias, on the west side of the Lake, is a popular holiday and health resort, with hot springs that have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.  There are bathing stations on the lake and facilities for a variety of water sports and activities.

 

Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is Israel's largest freshwater lake

Keywords:  Ministry of Jesus, Tabgha, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, Kibbutz Degania, Boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, Galilee Experience, Kibbutz Ginosar, Jesus Boat, Yardenit, Tiberias

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