Of huge significance for Christians, the Sea of Galilee is the traditional setting for many of Jesus’s miracles and the Sermon on the Mount. It is naturally the place of discovery of the 2000 year old fishing boat, reclaimed from the times of Jesus and thus nicknamed the “Jesus Boat”.
For Jews, the shores of the Sea of Galilee, or Kinneret, is home to Tiberias, one of the four holy cities. The Jerusalem Talmud was composed in Tiberias, the centre of Jewish life and learning after the second Roman revolt and the explusion of the Jews from Jerusalem. Much later Jewish pioneers established Degaya Aleph on the shores of the lake, Israel’s very first kibbutz.
For Christians and those interested in churches, highlights include the Mount of the Beatitudes (where tradition holds that Jesus delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount); Capernaum, interesting both for the early octagonal church built around the house of Peter, and for the later and ornate 5th century synagogue; the Church of the Primacy of St Peter, beautifully set on the shores of the lake; the Church of the Multiplication of Fish and Loaves at Tabgha where beautiful mosaics remain to signify commemoration of Jesus’ associated miracle.
Further churches of significance in the area close to the Sea of Galilee (but not on the lake itself) include the Church of the Transfiguration, Antonio Barluzzi’s masterpiece situated on Mount Tabor (Har Tavor in Hebrew). The site marks the mountain top on which, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was metamorphosed with rays of light, alongside the prophet Elijah and Moses. The drive up the mountain is dramatic, with stunning views of the lower Galilee refreshed anew at each hairpin turn. The Church itself is an exquisite piece of architecture which holds an atmosphere of serenity.
Nazareth is also not far and is home to the imposing and modern Church of the Annunciation. Here you can see gifts of images of Jesus sent from nations from the four corners of the globe, and can see the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Nazareth is also Israel’s largest Arab town and a great place to eat traditional Arab food, be it street food or something more formal.
It was one of our best trips and I think it very likely we’ll return before long.
Gerry D, London
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