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Tiberias – The Gateway to the Kinneret and Galilee Region

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The prime reason you may want to stay in or near Tiberias is because of the spectacular view of the lovely Lake Kinneret (the biblical Sea of Galilee), and its proximity to numerous historical sites of great interest to both Jews and Christians. For Christians, this is the area that they will likely feel closest to the life of Jesus, for it was here that he spent all but the last week of his ministry. For Jews, the Talmud says, “God made the seven seas, but the Kinneret is his jewel.” The town itself is actually a tad run down and unremarkable. But as a base to explore the Kinneret region, it is ideally situated.

Wherever you stay, I recommend that you spend a day circumnavigating the Lake by car using this booklet and Frommer’s or Fodor’s as your guide. The directions here presuppose that you are setting out north from Tiberias, but you can adapt from wherever you stay, and the order is not particularly important. At the outset, don’t miss the exhibit of a 2,000-year-old boat recovered from the shores of Lake Kinneret during a drought in 1986, which only went on display in late 1999. Because the ancient boat is roughly contemporaneous with Jesus of Nazareth, it is the subject of much speculation and interest. It’s on display at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, and the video showing the process of recovering and preserving the boat is fascinating.

Tabgha, with the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes2 and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter; and Capernaum with its amazing White Synagogue from the Fourth Century as well as what are believed to be the remains of Peter’s home and the First Century synagogue in which Jesus preached. Going up the nearby hill, you will see Korazim and its ancient synagogue from the Fourth Century C.E. and the Mount of Beatitudes with its modern but simple and lovely Church of the Beatitudes, which commemorates this traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount. Around the east side of Lake Kinneret, you will find Kursi with a Byzantine church from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries; and Ein Gev on the east side of the lake at the base of the Golan Heights, a kibbutz famous throughout the country for its summer concerts and fabulous lakeside fish restaurant.

At the southern end of Lake Kinneret, you will cross the Jordan River as it exits the lake on its path to the Dead Sea—and you’ll see there is nothing “mighty” about it. While dams actually retain some water here, for most of its length, it’s barely a creek, in part because of the water demands of this thirsty country. There is a baptismal site for Christian pilgrims at Yardenit. Just before you re-enter Tiberias, don’t miss the ruins of the Severus Synagogue from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries at Hammat Tiberias; the mosaics are amazing. You can do all this in a day, though it will be a long one