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Visiting the Sea of Galilee!

Touring Israel

The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km in circumference, about 21 km long, and 13 km wide. Yes, the Sea of Galilee isn’t really a sea; it’s a fresh water lake. The Red Sea was actually the Reed Sea in the ancient world. The lake has a total area of 166 km and a maximum depth of approximately At 211.315 meters below sea level. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake).

The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south. Israel's National Water Carrier, built in 1964, transports water from the lake to the population centers of Israel/Palestine, It is the source of much of the country's drinking water.
The fact that the Sea of Galilee is actually a freshwater lake surprises many visitors and newcomers. I was one of those surprised. It is full of fish but fishing has been banned since 2010 due to fear of exhausting the population of marine life.

It is also a beautiful moderately populated part of northeast Israel that I love to visit.
It is a wonderful area for hiking, swimming and other outdoor activities.The Sea of Galilee is not only Israel’s main water source but it has a huge religious significance and a major touristic value for Israel. It is an area of mountains and beaches and terrific wildlife. I spent much of my life in Colorado and derive great joy from the area. My visits include both hiking, visiting holy sites, and dining in Tiberius.

One of the most marvelous aspects of my life in as a new Israeli citizen is that I can visit religious and historical sites that I only read about in The United States. The bus trip from my home in Haifa is two hours. I can route my trip to include a short stop in Nazareth and Acre and return home on the same day!

Judaism and Christianity trace much of their roots back to this region. I practice Judaism but like many Jewish Israelis thrill to visit the holy sites of other faiths. Many Israelis share my desire to study and understand the faiths of our neighbors. Twenty per cent of Israelis are Christians, Muslims, Druzes and others within the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war. Only Jerusalem is holier to the followers of Judaism and Christians flock to this region to walk the paths taken by Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that many Jews, Christians, and Muslims live together in Harmony in Israel amazes me. I came to this country five years ago unaware of the amazing blends of faiths and cultures that Israel is made of!

The Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) is situated in northeast Israel, near the Golan Heights, in the Jordan Rift Valley. The valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian Plates. Consequently, the area is subject to earthquakes and, in the past, volcanic activity. The area is also subject to violent storms and torrid summer heat.
I learned the hard way during my first summer trips to always wear a hat and carry a large bottle of water. Public transportation in the area is limited. Therefore, I and my friends hire a private cab for our tours. The costs of such cab rentals are usually negotiable and the driver is often versed in knowledge about the region.

The modern name, Kinneret, comes from the Old Testament or Hebrew Tanakh "sea of Chinnereth".The name Kinneret may originate from the Hebrew word kinnor ("harp" or "lyre")), in view of the shape of the lake.

There are 35 species of fish in the Sea of Galilee today, including sardines and St. Peter’s fish, which I like to eat while we’ are there. Perhaps the “two small fish” Jesus turned into a feast for the 5,000 in John 6 were actually sardines from the lake.!

Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee. In those days, there was a continuous development of settlements and villages around the lake and plenty of trade and ferrying by boat. Fishing was a huge industry. One of Jesus' famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, is supposed to have been given on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his miracles are also said to have occurred here including his walking on water, calming the storm, the disciples and the boatload of fish, and his feeding five thousand people in Tabatha.

In 135 CE the second Jewish revolt against the Romans was put down. The Romans responded by banning all Jews from Jerusalem. The center of Jewish culture and learning shifted to the region of the Kinneret, particularly the city of Tiberias. It was in this region that the the so-called "Jerusalem Talmud" is thought to have been compiled. It became a great center of study and Jewish legal capital of the time.

Tiberias is the main city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (in Israel called the Kinneret), Established in 20 CE, it was named in honour of the emperor Tiberius. Tiberias is one of the four Jewish holy cities mentioned in the Talmud along with Jerusalem, Tzfat and Hebron.

The city of Tiberias became almost entirely Jewish since 1948. Many Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews settled in the city, following the Jewish exodus from Arab countries in late 1940s and the early 1950s. Over time, government housing was built to accommodate much of the new population, like in many other developing towns. Over time, the city came to rely on tourism, becoming a major Galilean center for Christian pilgrims and internal Israeli tourism. The ancient cemetery of Tiberias and its old synagogues are also drawing religious Jewish pilgrims during religious holidays.

The city was built by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod, around 20 CE in honour of the Roman emperor, Tiberius. At first, Jews wouldn't live here because the city was built on an ancient burial ground, making it "unclean" according to Jewish religious laws. At the beginning of the 2nd century, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai came here for the healing waters of the hot springs. He performed a purification ceremony to sanctify the city, and it became the centre for Jewish learning and spirituality in Eretz Israel. The Mishnah was completed here and it is traditionally believed that in later years, the Jerusalem Talmud - despite its name - was compiled and edited in Tiberias.

Many Jewish rabbis and tzaddikim (sages) requested to be buried in this holy city. One of them was the great Torah scholar Rabbi Akiva, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE and taught thousand of students. He was imprisoned and tortured by the Romans for supporting the Bar Kochba rebellion in 132-135 CE and was eventually killed. Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (the "Rambam") has his tomb here. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Jews make the pilgrimage to their tombs. The tombs and adjoining sites strikingly simple to me as does the tomb of Elijah the Prophet in Haifa. Perhaps the greatest tribute that we can pay these great scholars is to pay homage to their deeds and acts rather than to the sophisticated surroundings.

Tiberias consists of a small port on the shores of the Galilee lake for both fishing and tourist activities. Since 1990s, the importance of the port for fishing was gradually decreasing, with the decline of the Tiberias lake level, due to continuing droughts and increased pumping of fresh water from the lake. It is expected that the lake of Tiberias will regain its original level (almost 6 meters higher than today), with the full operational capacity of Israeli desalination facilities since 2014. The city has lots of cafes, shops, and of course religious shrines. My friends and I enjoy wandering around the city and "kibbutzim" with the local residents. The city offers some nice hotels and guest houses.

Posted by eshugerman 09:47 Tagged travel israel jesus bible christianity galilee judaism Comments (0)

Nazareth Israel

Home of Jesus

Christianity is the world's most popular religion, with an estimate of 2.2 billion adherents. This religion has followers in virtually every country in the world, and its strongest growth is in developing nations. I live in Israel and love visiting the holy sites of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Nazareth is particularly inspiring to me as a Jew and an American immigrant. It is a city that combines the history and cultures of the three major faiths in a peaceful and harmonious community. It was of course the home of Jesus and a special shrine of Christianity.

Christianity started about 2,000 years ago in the country of Judea, which is presently known as Israel. Israel had become a melting pot of various cultures, with many cities and farms. During that period, Rome had control over Israel and the Jewish people were subjugated and felt the need to seek freedom and independence. The Jews refused to accept the pagan ways of the Roman Empire. Many Jews believed the coming of the Messiah was their best hope for deliverance from Roman oppression and of course for spiritual salvation. Jesus of Nazareth was born during this tempestuous time of Jewish history. He was a Jew and observed all aspects of Judaism. He also knew Jewish law very well. When Jesus was in his early thirties, he began going to various villages, teaching and healing people along the way. The world was literally revolutionized by his teachings. Jesus taught a far more universal form of Judaism that prevaled in the era of his life. People began to question their leaders and the Judean community sought change.
(In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them."In this passage, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that he didn't intend to abolish the old Jewish religious laws, such as the Ten Commandments and the various regulations on marriage, inheritance, property rights, diet, and similar matters.)

Nazareth (Arabic الناصرة an-Nāzirah; Hebrew נָצְרַת) is a town of about 60,000 people in northern Israel, about 88 miles north of Jerusalem. It is the capital of the northern region of the country and the largest Arab city in Israel. Jesus grew up in Nazareth with his mother Mary, making the city one of several Christian pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land.

In Jesus' time, Nazareth would have had a population of about 500. Indeed, in the New Testament, Nazareth is depicted as an obscure backwater. In the Gospel of John, people who hear of Jesus of Nazareth ask themselves, "What good could come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46)

Nevertheless, the New Testament reports that Nazareth was the home of Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:26), the site of the Annunciation (announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the Savior) and the town in which Jesus grew up (Matthew 2:23, 13:54; Luke 2:4, 2:51, 4:16). Nazareth is mentioned 17 times in the New Testament. Jesus eventually left the village for a wider ministry although he was always known to some as a "prophet from Nazareth in Galilee" (Matt 21:11).

The two most famous churches in Nazareth are the Church of the Annunciation and St. Gabriel's Greek Orthodox Church. The two churches are connected by a spring and well, while the spring supplies the water to the well. It is believed to be the spot where Mary got the Annunciation of the upcoming birth of Jesus. The Greek Orthodox Church is the site of the spring, and the Church of the Annunciation is the site of the well.

The Jesus Trail begins in Nazareth. It is a 65 km walking trail which connects many of the sites where Jesus did his ancient ministry. One of the important sites of the trail is Tabgha which is believed to be the location of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish. In this location there is an ancient Christian site- the Church of the Multiplication.

Christians inhabited Nazareth by the 4th century, if not earlier, but pilgrims were not much interested in the site initially. It was not until the 6th century, when legends about Mary's life in Nazareth began to circulate, that Nazareth became a Christian pilgrim destination.

Modern Nazareth is situated among the southern ridges of the Lebanon Mountains, on the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 miles west from Mount Tabor. I used to to do the annual jog to the top of Mount Tabor. I won't lie, it's an exhausting treck- but the scenery was well worth the effort. The modern city lies at the bottom of the hill which views the ancient city. Nazareth has a population of 60,000. The majority of residents are Israeli Arabs, about 35-40% of whom are Christians and the rest are Muslims.

The historical sites bring Nazareth a wide array of tourists from all over the world. However, it is still a warm and welcoming place, and one of my favorites in Israel. It is located in a valley surrounded by greenery and fertile farmland. Nazareth is a town that combines ancient history with a modern society. It is always exciting to visit the holy sites and yet enjoy a robust and modern city. Nazareth has my favorite pizza joint in Israel- New York style pizza served with American beer. Near the central bus station is my prefered shoestore in Israel- they have a wide variety of American brand shoes. Nazareth, of course, maintains its tradition of wonderful Arabic cuisine- always a treat. Nazareth also offers a traditional Arab style Shuk or market. The city is a short bus or car trip to The Sea of Galilee, Acre and Jerusalem!

Posted by eshugerman 03:00 Archived in Israel Tagged travel israel jesus bible christianity galilee judaism Comments (0)

The Passion of Jerusalem!

My Favorite Trip in Israel

I am an Ammerican immigrant to Haifa, Israel of five years. I immigrated to Israel to share in the growth of this incredible nation. One of the great blessings of life in Israel is the opportunity to travel to many of the most ancient and holy sites with great ease. I can visit The Galilee, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem in the same day!

My favorite trip is to Israel's capital, Jerusalem to visit the Tower of David, where King David composed the 23rd psalm. When I finish my tour in the Tower of David, I dine at my beloved Arab restaurant where I enjoy the cuisine of traditional Arab cooking accompanied by a Miller Light. Then, I cross the street towards The Tomb of Jesus, where I am always inspired by the visit. It still amazes me that the distance between The Tower of David, my favorite traditional Arab restaurant and the Tomb of Jesus is less than one hundred meters. I visit The Western Wall,or Kotel. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the ancient Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future.

My first trip to Jerusalem was five years ago. I was accompanied by my cousin Chaya, which is the Hebrew female name for life. Life has very special meaning to the people of Israel. We must never forget the Holocaust. Six million lost souls who died for the "crime" of praying in a Synagogue. Twenty thousand have perished defending this small and brave nation.

Chaya is Jewish Orthodox and by the age of thirty has six wonderful children. She is also an American Olah or immigrant to Israel. Her family immigrated to Israel two decades ago. Their intention was to be in the holiest city of the holiest nation on earth. My pride and joy is her now eight year old son, Elchanan. Elchanan is a handsome, brilliant, and very precocious young man with dark hair, brown eyes, and a very enchanting but somewhat sly smile. His mom refers to him as a walking Chamsin (turbulent storm), and his proud grandma jokes that he is Israel’s greatest threat to stability!

Chaya, like most residents of the holy city takes great pride in giving guided tours of her beloved metropolis. During my visit, we enjoyed touring the city on Israel’s double decker bus 99. El Chanon managed to get into everything and talk to everyone to the merriment of all, including our bus driver Haim. He has been a resident of the city for forty years. Chaim told us in great detail about his recently born and first grandson. We were enthralled to hear a Druze visitor from the North tell us about his families support of the Jewish Yishuv during Israel's War of Independence in 1948. We chatted with a group of Christian pilgrims from Belgium. They were seeing Jerusalem and neighboring Bethlehem for the first time.

The 99 bus navigates a route of both scenic and cultural interest. Mount Scopus boasts a visage encompassing the Old City, the Temple Mount and Bethlehem. As the Old City passes into the remote distance, the New City boasts iconographic sites. The Knesset housing Israel’s parliament. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial remembers all those that were the victims of history’s most insidious crime. The Israel Museum is a testimony to Jewish endurance and continuity of their presence in the Land of Canaan (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea). It is also the home to one of the most impressive and famous discoveries dating back more than two thousand years. The Dead Sea Scrolls written by a group called “The Esseim” describes life in this region in the era of The Second Jewish Temple.

Jerusalem has been the holiest city in Judaism and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE. Jerusalem has long been embedded into Jewish religious consciousness. Jews have studied and personalized the struggle by King David to capture Jerusalem and his desire to build the Jewish temple there, as described in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. Many of King David's yearnings about Jerusalem have been adapted into popular prayers and songs. The 23rd Psalm is my most revered. Traditionally, Jerusalem has been the focus of longing for Diaspora Jews who were forced from their land and the Temple of their God. Psalm 137 is the well-known lament of the Babylonian Jews who wept "by the rivers of Babylon" and declared, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither."

For Christians, Jerusalem's place in the life of Jesus gives it great importance. Jerusalem is considered a sacred site. The city is holy in both Sunni and Sunnite Islamic tradition, along with Mecca and Medina. Islamic tradition holds that previous prophets were associated with Jerusalem, and that the Islamic prophet Muhammad visited the city on a nocturnal journey.

The Holy City is one of the most studied and most controversial in the world. The city has great spiritual value to both Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also a political arena. Should Jerusalem be the capital of the Jewish homeland, Palestinian homeland, or both? The residents of all parts of Jerusalem, regardless of their background, feel that they are under the proverbial microscope. Please come and see it for yourselves!

The Holy City is one of the most studied and most controversial in the world. The city has great spiritual value to both Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It is also a political arena. Should Jerusalem be the capital of the Jewish homeland, Palestinian homeland, or both? The residents of all parts of Jerusalem, regardless of their background, feel that they are under the proverbial microscope. Please come and see it for yourselves!


Posted by eshugerman 22:55 Tagged king western wall israel david jesus haifa jerusalem islam christianity judaism 23rd psalm Comments (0)

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