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Sea of Galilee Guide - Essentials and Things to Do

An Introduction to the Area

My Sea of Galilee Guide will take you around the Sea of ​​Galilee; there are many vantage points that allow a good view of the famous lake and its surroundings. For example, the Arbel Cliff; or from the Swiss Forest and Mount Beriniki. Both are located just above the city of  Tiberias. Also, more options for Great Viewpoints could be: First, the Kfar Haruv Lookout; or if you are on the eastern side so Ophir Lookout.

As well as from the western Sea of ​​Galilee; like from the balcony of the Mount of Beatitudes and Moshav of Almagor. Also, you should consider coming in from Kfar Tavor driving through Yavne’el to the Kinarot Valley. So there, you can stop for a nice lookout on the side of the road that winds down to the Sea of ​​Galilee.

The formation of this unique area is related to the geological formation of the Great Rift Valley. A System of Faults that extends from northern Syria to Tanzania for about 6,000 km. The process began some 38 million years ago. When two tectonic plates (The African Plate and the Arabian Plate) were set in motion and it continues till today; with the eastern (Arabian) plate sliding away from the African board (Western) with a displacement of about 20 mm per year. And in the gap formed in between ridges are formed along with lakes. Some of which are saltwater lakes like the Dead Sea. And some of them are freshwater lakes like the Sea of Galilee.

Sea of Galilee Guide – Remembrance of Things Past

Its current form is a relatively young geomorphological phenomenon; created after the contraction of Lake Lisan, a prehistoric lake that extended from the southern Dead Sea to the northern Sea of ​​Galilee. The borders of the Sea of ​​Galilee are delimited by a set of Tilted Block Faulting that builds the Syrian-African rift. Now with the constant drifting of the plates from each other; slowly a Structural Basin (Pull-Apart Basin) was formed. Together with basalt provinces at the south of the Sea of ​​Galilee. And the Alluvial Fan of the Yarmouk River. Ultimately all these processes created a barrier to which a large reservoir of water; meaning the Sea of ​​Galilee – was formed.

The all-year-round source of water; with the climate and geographical conditions has made the Sea of ​​Galilee a center for human civilization. Even dating back to the prehistoric era; to about 1.4 million-year-old we have a site named Ubeidiya; through ancient archaeological tells dated to the Bronze Age like Khirbet Kerak. And Hellenistic cities such as Susita; or Roman healing hot baths such as the one in Hamat Gader.

The Sea of Galilee is mentioned in the Book of Joshua; the Book of Numbers; Kings and Exodus: Either by the name Kinneret; the Sea of ​​Tiberias or the Sea of ​​Gennesaret. Josephus Flavius ​​praises its beauty and the surroundings. And of course not to mention, Jesus‘ Missionary right? This is where Jesus gathers the very first followers like Peter and Andrew among its inhabitants. And following Christian traditions monasteries and churches were erected around the Sea of ​​Galilee.

Sea of Galilee Guide: The Old Ottoman Train Station at Samakh

So where should we start? After checking out the view from one of these lookouts. Perhaps a good start would be visiting the Old Ottoman Train Station at Samakh. Between 1905 and 1948; the town was an important stop on the Jezreel Valley railway and Hejaz railway; being the last effective stop in the British Mandate of Palestine. Then visiting Hamat Gader could be a great continuation to our private tour of the Sea of Galilee. Hamat Gader was already a widely known health and recreation site in Roman times. It is mentioned in Strabo, Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature of the first centuries CE. Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in the city of Gadara.

The site includes a Roman theatre, which was built in the 3rd century CE and contained 2,000 seats. A large synagogue was built in the 5th century CE. The empress Aelia Eudocia composed a poem praising the qualities of the multiple springs which were inscribed so that visitors could see them as they went into the pool.

Some of the buildings were damaged by an earthquake and restored in 633 by the Umayyad caliph who ruled from Damascus. A century later the 749 Galilee earthquake hit. Eventually, in the 9th century, the baths were abandoned and a thick layer of silt covered the ruins.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Susita National Park (Hippos)

Susita National Park is an archaeological site, located on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Between the 3rd century BCE and the 7th century CE, Hippos was the site of a Greco-Roman city; which declined under Muslim rule and was abandoned after an earthquake in 749. Besides the fortified city itself; Hippos controlled two port facilities on the lake and an area of the surrounding countryside. Hippos were part of the Decapolis or Ten Cities; a region in Roman Jordan; Syria and Israel that were culturally tied more closely to Greece and Rome than to the Semitic ethnoi around.

Susita Under Roman Rule

In 63 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquered Coele-Syria; including Judea; and ended Hasmonean independence. Pompey granted self-rule to roughly ten Greek cities on Coele-Syria’s eastern frontier; this group, of which Hippos was one, came to be called the Decapolis and was incorporated into the Roman Provincia Syria. Under Roman rule, Hippos was granted a certain degree of autonomy. The city minted its own coins; stamped with the image of a horse in honor of the city’s name.

Hippos was given to Herod the Great in 37 BCE and returned to the Province of Syria at his death in 4 BCE. According to Josephus, during this time Hippos; a pagan city; was the “sworn enemy” of the new Jewish city across the lake, Tiberias. Jews had resided in Tiberias when it was still known by its previous name, Rakat. Rakat was later given the name Tiberias some 25 years after Herod’s death by his son, Herod Antipas, in honor of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius, in AD 20. Josephus reports that during the Great Jewish Revolt of 66–70 CE, Hippos persecuted its Jewish population. Other Jews from Susita participated in attacks on Magdala and elsewhere. Hippos itself fell under attack by rebels at least once.

The Peak of Prosperity

After the Romans put down the Bar Kokhba revolt they created the province of Palaestina in 135; of which Hippos was a part. This was the beginning of Hippos’ greatest period of prosperity and growth. It was rebuilt along with a grid pattern; centered around a long Decumanus Maximus running east-west through the city. The streets were lined with hundreds of red granite columns imported from Egypt.

The great expense required to haul these columns to Palestine and up the hill is proof of the city’s wealth. Other improvements included a Kalybe (a shrine to the Emperor); a theatre; an Odeon; a basilica, and new city walls. The most important improvement; however, was the aqueduct, which led water into Hippos from springs in the Golan Heights, 50 km away. The water; collected in a large; vaulted cistern, allowed a large population to live in the city. On my Sea of Galilee private archeological tours, I offer detailed explanations about the site’s history and excavations. So if you are an archaeological buff I’m your man!

Sea of Galilee Guide: Kursi National Park

Now on our way to Kursi stopping at Ophir lookout could be a great idea for a nice view over the Sea of Galilee. Kursi is an archaeological site containing the ruins of a Byzantine monastery and identified by tradition as the site of Jesus’ “Miracle of the Swine”. Kursi takes its name from the Talmudic site.

A marble slab with Aramaic text discovered in December 2015 seems to indicate that the settlement had, as of ca. 500 CE, a Jewish or Judeo-Christian population. In 614 CE the Sassanian armies invaded Palestine laying waste to most of its churches and monasteries; including the one at Kursi.

Exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac

The exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, frequently known as the Miracle of the (Gadarene) Swine and the exorcism of Legion, is one of the miracles performed by Jesus according to the New Testament. The story shows Jesus exorcising a demon or demons out of a man and into a herd of swine; causing the swine to run down a hill into a lake and drown themselves.

The Account According Mark

The earliest account is from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 5:1-20); in which Jesus goes across the sea into the “region of the Gerasenes”. There, a man “possessed by a demon” comes from the caves to meet him. People had tried to tie him down but he was too strong to be bound, even with chains for he would always break out of them; night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Then Jesus approaches and calls the demon to come out of the man, who replies “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God? I beg you in the name of God never to torment me!”

Then Jesus asks the demon for his name and is told “My name is Legion, for we are many”. Suddenly the demons beg Jesus not to send them away. But instead to send them into the pigs on a nearby hillside, which he does. Shortly, the herd, about two thousand in number; rushes down the steep bank into the sea and is drowned. Suddenly the man is now seen, dressed, and restored to sanity: he asks to be included among the disciples who travel with Jesus. But he is refused and instructed to remain in the Decapolis region; to tell of “the great things the Lord has done […] and [how he] has had compassion on you”. Theologian Tom Wright calls him “the first apostle to the gentiles”

Sea of Galilee Guide: Bethsaida National Park

According to John 1:44, Bethsaida was the hometown of the apostles Philip, Andrew and Peter. In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 8:22–26); Jesus reportedly restored a blind man’s sight at a place just outside the ancient village of Bethsaida. In Luke 9:10-11, Jesus miraculously feeds five thousand near Bethsaida. Archaeologists tend to agree that the capital of the kingdom of Geshur was situated at et-Tell; a place also inhabited on a lesser scale during the first centuries BCE and CE and sometimes identified with the town of Bethsaida of New Testament fame. Archaeological excavations at site have revealed fishing gear; including lead weights used for fishing nets; as well as sewing needles for repairing fishing nets. The findings indicate that most of the city’s economy was based on fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Woes to the unrepentant cities

Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel record Jesus’ message of woe to the unrepentant cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Jesus says:

“Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” (Matthew 11:20-24)

The three cities mentioned lay just north of the Sea of Galilee. Chorazin is not otherwise mentioned in the Gospels. Bethsaida is where Philip, Andrew, and Peter were from; and where Jesus healed a blind man. Capernaum, however, is mentioned many times in the Gospels and was the site of many of Jesus’ healings and miracles; serving for a time as the center of his public ministry. Tyre and Sidon were cities against which the prophets of the Old Testament had pronounced God’s judgment. Sodom was infamous as the city which, according to the Book of Genesis, God had spectacularly destroyed for its wickedness in the time of Abraham.

In essence, then, Jesus is contrasting three Jewish towns where he has performed many signs, with three Gentile cities known for such extraordinary wickedness as to deserve God’s destruction; saying that on the Day of Judgment the former will be judged more harshly, because of their greater unwillingness to repent.

Capernaum: “Jesus’ Own Town” (Matthew 9:1)

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus selected this town as the center of his public ministry in Galilee after he left the small mountainous hamlet of Nazareth (Matthew 4:12–17). The town is cited in all four gospels where it was reported to have been the hometown of the tax collector Matthew. And located not far from Bethsaida; the hometown of the apostles Simon Peter; Andrew; James and John.

Some readers take Mark 2:1 as evidence that Jesus may have owned a home in the town. But it is more likely that he stayed in the house of one of his followers here. Certainly, he spent time teaching and healing there. One Sabbath, Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. And healed a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit (Luke 4:31–36 and Mark 1:21–28). This story is notable as the only one that is common between the gospels of Mark and Luke. But not contained in the Gospel of Matthew (see Synoptic Gospels for more literary comparison between the gospels).

Afterward, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (Luke 4:38–39). According to Luke 7:1–10 and Matthew 8:5; this is also the place where Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion who had asked for his help. Also, Capernaum is also the location of the healing of the paralytic lowered by friends through the roof to reach Jesus; as reported in Mark 2:1–12 and Luke 5:17–26.

Sea of Galilee Guide Mt. of Beatitudes

A Byzantine church was erected lower down the slope from the current site in the 4th century; and it was used until the 7th century. Now the remains of a cistern and a monastery are still visible. The current Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel was built in 1937-38 following plans by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. Notably, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass at this site in March 2000. Also, the Jesus Trail pilgrimage route connects the Mount to other sites from the life of Jesus. This one of the nicest viewpoints overlooking the Sea of Galilee. In any event, according to tradition, this is where Jesus gave the famous Sermon on the Mount.

The teachings of the Sermon on the Mount have been a key element of Christian ethics. And for centuries the sermon has acted as a fundamental recipe for the conduct of the followers of Jesus. Also, various religious and moral thinkers (e.g. Tolstoy and Gandhi) have admired its message; and it has been one of the main sources of Christian pacifism. But we will discuss this much more in length on our Sea of Galilee private Christian tour.

Sea of Galilee Boat

The remains of the Ancient 1st century Galilee Boat were found by brothers Moshe and Yuval Lufan; fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar. The brothers were keen amateur archaeologists with an interest in discovering artifacts from Israel’s past. It had always been their hope to one day discover a boat in the Sea of Galilee; where they and generations of their family had fished. When drought reduced the water level of the lake; the two brothers examined the newly exposed beach and stumbled across the remains of the boat buried in the shore.

The brothers reported their discovery to the authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to investigate. The team realized that the remains of the boat were of tremendous historical importance to Jews and Christians alike; and so an archaeological dig followed; undertaken by members of Kibbutz Ginosar; the Israel Antiquities Authority; and numerous volunteers. Rumour spread that the boat was full of gold and the dig had to be guarded night and day. Excavating the boat from the mud without damaging it; quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again; was a difficult process which lasted 12 days and nights.

The ancient wood was extremely fragile when exposed to the atmosphere and the boat had to be rescued from the place it was found by wrapping it in a mantle of fiberglass and insulating foam; which helped with both keeping it together; and floating it to its new location. It was then submerged in a wax bath for 12 years; which protected the boat before it could be displayed at the Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.

Magdala: The Town of Mary Magdalene

So our Sea of Galilee guided tour continues to yet another known town – Magdala. Magdala was an ancient city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The settlement began during the Hellenistic period (between the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE) and ended during the late Roman period (3rd century CE). Later excavations in 2009–2013 brought perhaps the most important discovery in the site: an ancient synagogue, called the “Migdal Synagogue”. It is the oldest synagogue found in the Galilee; and one of the only synagogues from that period found in the entire country; as of the time of the excavation. They also found the Magdala stone; which has a seven-branched menorah symbol carved on it. It is the earliest menorah of that period to be discovered outside of Jerusalem.

Mary of Magdalene (Magdala)

So Mary Magdalene was a Jewish women; who according to the New Testament traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. And was even a witness to his crucifixion; burial and resurrection. In fact, she is mentioned by name twelve times in the four gospels. Now that’s more than the apostles and more than any other non-family women in the Gospels. Mary’s epithet Magdalene may mean that she came from the town of Magdala. Moreover, the Gospel of Luke 8:2-3 lists Mary Magdalene as one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support his ministry “out of their resources”; indicating that she was probably relatively wealthy. Another interesting piece of information is told in the same passage. It is said that seven demons had been driven out of her.

If you read all four gospels it is said Mary Magdalene is a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus. And in the Synoptic Gospels, she is also present in the burial. All four gospels identify her, either alone or as a member of a larger group of women which includes Jesus’s mother; as the first to witness the empty tomb; and the first to witness Jesus’s resurrection.

Mary Magdalene and the Ancient Profession in the World

The inaccurate portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute began after a series of Easter sermons delivered in 591. When Pope Gregory I conflated Mary Magdalene; who is introduced in Luke 8:2, with Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:39) and the unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. Consequently this resulted in a widespread but inaccurate belief that she was a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman. Moreover, elaborate medieval legends from western Europe tell exaggerated tales of Mary Magdalene’s wealth and beauty; as well as her alleged journey to southern France. Also the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed “sinful woman” was a major controversy in the years leading up to the Reformation and some Protestant leaders rejected it. During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church emphasized Mary Magdalene as a symbol of penance.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Tomb of Maimonides

Moses Ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician.

Born in Córdoba, on Passover Eve, 1138; he worked as a rabbi; physician; and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on December 12, 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias. On our stop next to his tomb we will discuss his great contribution to the culture by mainly elaborating on his major works. During his lifetime, most Jews greeted Maimonides’ writings on Jewish law and ethics with acclaim and gratitude. Even as far away as Iraq and Yemen.

Yet, while Maimonides rose to become the revered head of the Jewish community in Egypt; his writings also had vociferous critics; particularly in Spain. Nonetheless, he was posthumously acknowledged as among the foremost rabbinical decisors and philosophers in Jewish history. And his copious work comprises a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. His fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. He is sometimes known as “ha Nesher haGadol” (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.

The Problem of Evil

Maimonides wrote on theodicy (the philosophical attempt to reconcile the existence of a God with the existence of evil). He took the premise that an omnipotent and good God exists. In The Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides writes that all the evil that exists within human beings stems from their individual attributes; while all good comes from a universally shared humanity (Guide 3:8). He says that there are people who are guided by higher purpose; and there are those who are guided by physicality and must strive to find the higher purpose with which to guide their actions.

To justify the existence of evil; assuming God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent; Maimonides postulates that one who created something by causing its opposite not to exist is not the same as creating something that exists. So evil is merely the absence of good. God did not create evil; rather God created good; and evil exists where good is absent (Guide 3:10). Therefore, all good is divine invention; and evil both is not and comes secondarily.

Maimonides contests the common view that evil outweighs good in the world. He says that if one were to examine existence only in terms of humanity; then that person may observe evil to dominate good. But if one looks at the whole of the universe; then he sees good is significantly more common than evil (Guide 3:12). Man, he reasons, is too insignificant a figure in God’s myriad works to be their primary characterizing force; and so when people see mostly evil in their lives; they are not taking into account the extent of positive Creation outside of themselves.

The Three Types of Evil According to Maimonides

Maimonides believes that there are three types of evil in the world: evil caused by nature; evil that people bring upon others; and evil man brings upon himself. The first type of evil Maimonides states is the rarest form. But arguably the most necessary—the balance of life and death in both the human and animal worlds itself; he recognizes, is essential to God’s plan. Maimonides writes that the second type of evil is relatively rare; and that humanity brings it upon itself. The third type of evil humans bring upon themselves and is the source of most of the ills of the world. These are the result of people falling victim to their physical desires. To prevent the majority of evil which stems from harm we do to ourselves, we must learn how to ignore our bodily urges.

The Tomb of Yohanan Ben Zakkai

The tomb is located in Tiberias, within the Maimonides burial compound. Yohanan ben Zakkai was one of the Tannaim; an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple. And a primary contributor to the core text of Rabbinical Judaism, the Mishnah. He is widely regarded as one of the most important Jewish figures of his time and his escape from the Roman destruction of Jerusalem; that allowed him to continue teaching; may have been instrumental in rabbinic Judaism surviving the destruction.

Upon the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE; Yochanan converted his school at Yavne into the Jewish religious center; insisting that certain privileges, given by Jewish law uniquely to Jerusalem; should be transferred to Yavne. His school functioned as a re-establishment of the Sanhedrin; so that Judaism could decide how to deal with the loss of the sacrificial altars of the temple in Jerusalem; and other pertinent questions. Referring to a passage in the Book of Hosea, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice”; he helped persuade the council to replace animal sacrifice with prayer; a practice that continues in today’s worship services; eventually Rabbinic Judaism emerged from the council’s conclusions.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Hamat Tiberias

The 17 springs of Hamat Tiberias have been known since antiquity for their curative properties. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, a village once rested upon the site and was distinct from Tiberias. The site was rediscovered in 1920 when the Tiberias-Samakh road was being constructed.

The Hamei Tveria natural hot springs are located on the grounds of the park. According to the sages of the Talmud; the springs were heated when they streamed past the entrance of Hell. But the geological explanation is that a hot spring is produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth’s crust. Archaeologists have concluded it was built on the ruins of the biblical city of Hammath (Joshua 19:35). However the finds of the excavations are limited to the 1st-8th centuries CE. The small town eventually merged with Tiberias.

The Zodiac Panel Found At Hammat Tiberias

The synagogue dates to 286 and 337 CE; when Tiberias was the seat of the Sanhedrin. Two synagogue sites have been excavated at Hammat Tiberias. The first, uncovered in 1921 by Nahum Slouschz who was working under the sponsorship of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society, was a watershed event in the history of Israeli archaeology as the first archaeological dig conducted under Jewish auspices.

A limestone menorah was uncovered there which is now on display at the Israel Museum. The mosaic floor is made up of three panels featuring: inscriptions and dedications; the zodiac panel, including Helios the sun god and four women symbolizing the four seasons of nature; while the upper panel depicts the Temple of Jerusalem plus the primary symbols of Judaism; the menorah candelabra; Shofar; Four species; and a Mahta shovel. During my Israel private tours I like to elaborate about this interesting phenomena. Also true not just to this Byzantine synagogue but to a few others in the Holy Land. In fact you can read all about it in my post about The Zodiac in Ancient Synagogues.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Kinneret Farm

In June 1908 the Farm began as an experiment at Kinneret village, Arthur Ruppin; the head of the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organisation and one of the leading Zionists of the time; was the initiator and man in charge. Unlike the moshava, the farm was meant as a training facility for agricultural work and became a laboratory for social and economic experiments. In fact, many of the structures and organisations on which pre-State Jewish and post-1948 Israeli society relied and still relies are being initiated here.

The Birthplace of the Very First National Organizations

Such are the communal settlement forms of the kvutza; kibbutz and moshav, the women’s rights movement—beginning with an agricultural training farm for women in 1911 and continuing with the first assembly of women farmers in 1914. And the cooperatives HaMashbir (for the sale of affordable food during World War I; est. 1916) and Tnuva (milk and dairy products; est. 1926); the Solel Boneh construction company (est. 1921) which emerged from the Work Battalion; the Bank Hapoalim or “workers’ bank”; the kupat holim public health care system; and last not least the Haganah paramilitary organisation. Definitely the Farm residents also had a major role in establishing and shaping the Histadrut labor union.

In its early years it was joined by local Jewish farmers from the surrounding villages; and very soon after by the very young pioneers of the Second Aliyah. The original Jewish settlers stayed in the so-called Khan; a word meaning caravansary and being no more than a storage building bought from a local Bedouin tribe. Now the early days were marked by starvation and conflict. After a workers’ strike in October 1909; a co-operative split away from Kinneret: seven pioneers founded the first kvutza. Eventually named Degania.

They derived inspiration from Ber Borochov’s ideas. And In 1912, the original founders of the moshava were joined by ten Yemenite Jewish families who worked in draining swamps; as also in growing vegetables. But because of cultural differences between the new immigrants and the original founders they were compelled to leave the moshava. After they had been there eighteen years. In 1930, they took leave of the place and resettled in Kefar Marmorek; a suburb of Rehovot.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Yardenit Baptism Site

Yardenit baptismal site, is a baptism site located along the Jordan River in the Galilee region of northern Israel; which is frequented by Christian pilgrims. As can be seen on the map, the site is located south of the river’s outlet from the Sea of Galilee; near Kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret; which owns and manages the site. According to Christian tradition, the baptism of Jesus (Matthew, 3: 13-17) took place in Qasr el Yahud; north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. For centuries, Qasr el Yahud was the most important baptism site for pilgrims; and monasteries and guest houses were established near it. Al-Maghtas in Jordan shows the earliest religious structures connected with baptism or religious baths on the Eastern part of the Jordan. But reverence shifted to the West bank after the Muslim Conquest.

Although the term “baptism” is not used to describe the Jewish rituals; the purification rites in Jewish law and tradition called tevilah have some similarity to baptism; and the two have been linked. The tevilah is the act of immersion in natural sourced water called a mikvah In the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts. Immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of “ritual purity” in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion is required for converts to Judaism as part of their conversion. Immersion in the mikvah represents a change in status in regards to purification; restoration; and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community.

The Pioneers Yard At Kibbutz Degania

At the end of 1911, while the settlement was still at Umm Juni, the Land of Israel Office, headed by Dr. Arthur Ruppin, decided to establish the permanent site of Degania. The place chosen was at the Jordan River’s exit from Lake Kinneret. The settlement was planned like a German farm: the farm buildings surrounded by a wall, with metal spike fences and an entrance gate. The walls of the buildings are 50 cm thick, made of local basalt stone, cut on the outside and plastered on the inside.

The roofs were covered with red clay shingles. Adjacent to the farm yard, outside of the fence, were erected a two-story dwelling and a building comprising the dining room, kitchen, showers and above it a cistern with a capacity of 10 cubic meters. The front of the yard faces east, towards the Golan Heights and Lake Kinneret and an avenue of cypresses leads to the gate of the yard.

1910 Restaurant

After you’ve toured all day a nice ending for an amazing tour should be a nice dinner. The 1910 restaurant is located in the historic first courtyard complex; in a beautiful space belonging to the first group of buildings erected at Kibbutz Degania A. The entrance to the complex reveals a row of story-soaked stone structures situated next to a vast lawn courtyard and palm trees. The concept behind the restaurant was born out of the shared love of chef Oded Schwarzbard; Alon Hadar and Shahar Hochler – for hospitality, people and food.

1910 Italian-Mediterranean restaurant; on the one hand, creates a warm and homely atmosphere while at the same time acting as a tight culinary institution that adheres to standards strictly adhered to for esteemed restaurants in major cities. The dishes are served in a way that encourages sharing among the table members; giving guests the opportunity to enjoy all the dishes. Seating spaces in the restaurant include an interior space that allows a glimpse into the kitchen and the tabun stand; seating on the balcony facing the flowering courtyard as well as an intimate and luxurious high seating area.

Type of Menu

So 1910 offers fresh, high-quality and delicious food; made with gifted hands and a warm heart and spiced with the little twists of the chef. Its seasonal menu varies and offers a variety of dishes. From Italian tavern pizzas; seafood and grilled fish alongside a variety of vegetables and herbs; handmade pastas in comforting sauces; and to unique desserts made under the Weiner-Schwarzes Brett confectionery. Popular dishes include Israeli gnocchi (stuffed with meat); corn polenta; white fish fillet with green risotto and strained yogurt; classic gnocchi with chestnut and asparagus.

I really recommend you to call a head and book a table a couple of days before. I am skeptic you’ll be able to find a table on the same day. The doors are opening at 18:30 but call them just to make sure since on weekends the opening hours might change. By the way my favorite this there is the gnocchi.

Sea of Galilee Guide: Some Last Notes

This suggested itinerary offers a wide range of sites to visit. There are different sites and I recommend you to pick those that are your prime interest. Since if you would try to accomplish them all in one day it won’t be possible. Now the ones I truly recommend to visit in my opinion is Mt. Beatitudes. Honestly just for the beautiful view point from the top of the mountain; I think it’s worth going to check it out. Also the ancient Galilean boat is a very nice stop that can give you also an inside look to a real kibbutz. Moreover, you can try and join a group for a nice boat ride over there. You should inquire about that from where you are getting the tickets for the museum of the ancient Galilean boat.

Now there is another stop that I did not mention; but I guess this is the time is a spot called the Church of St. Peter Primacy. Since it’s just next to Tabgha and I totally recommend you to go there. It commemorates, and allegedly marks the spot, of Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter as chief among the Apostles. Furthermore, inside the church there is a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar. Christians that come to visit the site venerate it as the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles. And then Jesus told Peter “feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch; the third time Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection (John 21:1-24).

A Nice Ending For The Tour

In the 9th century, the church was referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus’ preparing a meal for the Apostles; building a charcoal fire on which he cooked the fish. Also first mentioned in the year 808 are the “Twelve Thrones”, a series of heart shaped stones; which were placed along the shore to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. Today you can actually see some of these stones just next to the shoreline.

And in my opinion this is the best spot to dip your feet in the Sea of Galilee. There are benches where you can just sit there for a bit and pounder for a while. By the way the church survived longer than any other in the area. Finally, in 1263 the church was destroyed. The present chapel was built in 1933 and was included in the itineraries of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II during their visits to Israel in 1964 and March 2000 respectively.

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to read more posts about the Sea of Galilee in my Blog and hopefully I will see you on one of my Sea of Galilee private tours that I offer. I have lots of other recommendations you can read about like where to stay in the Sea of Galilee. Also I wrote individuals posts for each site here so you can read about these places some more.

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Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

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