Although known in Hebrew as the Kinneret, possibly due to its lyre-like shape, this body of fresh water is more commonly known as the Sea of Galilee, for so it is referred to by the Gospels of the New Testament. In the book of Joshua, Kinneret was to be part of the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali (Josh 19:35).

The northern Jordan River, fed by a number of tributaries, is the main source of water for the Kinneret which narrows at the southern end as it once again becomes the Jordan River. The river and the Jordan Valley, through which it flows, are part of the great Syro-African rift, a geological fault which stretches from Asia Minor to Africa. An average of 25 meters in depth, the Kinneret is 200 meters below sea level.

The eastern bank is slowly, very slowly, moving northwards making the entire area very earthquake prone and there is evidence that the northern delta of the Kinneret is very much changed from what is was two thousand years ago, in the time of Jesus, although the size has probably remained constant 20 km in length and 12 km at its widest point, opposite Tiberias.

Water pumped from the Kinneret once provided Israel with 40% of its water needs. However, extensive drawing of the water together with a number of drought years has caused the level to drop thereby minimizing the pumping. There is a dam at the southern end regulating the flow into the southern Jordan.

Warm springs on the north western shores facilitated winter fishing in the villages of Bethsaida and Capernaum and many of the events of the mission of Jesus in the Galilee took place in this area. They are commemorated by a number of churches including the Benedictine Church at Tabgha, which recalls the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish and the Franciscan Mensa Christi recalls the meal Jesus prepares for the disciples (John 21).

The wooden boats, large replicas of the hull of an ancient boat excavated from the exposed mud, are reminiscent of those used by fishermen two thousand years ago. They also draw to mind the battle between the Jews of Tiberias and the surrounding area and the invading Roman army led by Vespasian in 67 CE.

Roman Josephus Flavius, the Roman historian describes the outcome of that naval engagement: “A fearful sight met the eyes – the entire lake stained with blood and crammed with corpses; for there was not a single (Jewish) survivor.”

Where is the Sea of Gallile

As its name implies, the Sea of Galilee is in the geographical area known as the Galilee. It is however a sweet water lake, fed mainly by the northern Jordan River, and not a sea. On its western shore is Tiberias, a town with a population of about 40,000, with many hotels, pensions and recreational facilities. As the Kinneret is 200 meters below sea level, although hot and humid in the summer it is pleasant in the winter and so is a year round resort area. Around its shore are a number of camping sites and guest houses, possibly the best known at kibbutz Ein Gev, beneath the hills of the Golan Heights on the eastern shore, opposite Tiberias.

Apart from the afore-mentioned churches there are a number of other sites of interest to the Christian pilgrim. Yardenit, at the southern end, where the Kinneret narrows and once more becomes the Jordan River, is a popular baptizing site. Kursi, on the eastern shore is the traditional site where Jesus “commanded the unclean spirits to come out of” Legio. (Luke 8:29)

Weather: (Sea of Gallile)

At two hundred meters below sea level the weather is normally very hot and humid with summer temperatures reaching 40 C.  The water is generally calm and warm and there are many camping and recreational sites along the shores. Even in the winter months the days can be quite pleasant.

However, when the wind blowing from the Mediterranean tries to ascend the Golan Heights on the eastern shore the waves can be rough and dangerous and boats sailing on the water will be tossed about in the stormy conditions.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

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