Called the Sea of Kinneret in the Old Testament, and the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias or Gennesareth. In the New, Lake Kinneret shimmers in the sunlight and glistens as the sun goes down. When full the Kinneret is beautiful beyond words; in years of drought the sight of its dry and stony shores brings tears to many eyes. Only 21 kilometers long and just 12 kilometers wide, the lake is Israel’s main source of fresh water. The Jordan River flows into the Kinneret from the north and exits at the southern end on its way to the Dead Sea, while a third of the lake’s waters come from the riverbeds of the Golan Heights. Water from the lake is pumped into almost all of Israel’s inter-city water pipes.
Although shaped somewhat like a violin (kinnor in Hebrew), the Kinneret actually gets its name from a town that sat on its northwestern banks during the biblical era. Many of its settlers were probably fishermen, for despite its size Lake Kinneret has provided an excellent living since the beginning of time.
The New Testament relates that along the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus preached and performed many of his miracles. Thus there are many Christian pilgrimage sites around the lake, among them Capernaum, Tab’ha, St. Peter’s Primacy and the Mount of Beatitudes.
From antiquity to the present, Lake Kinneret has been subject to sudden, violent storms that churn up its waters and give it a gloomy, frightening look. Indeed, in Matthew 8:24-26 “. . . there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves. . . [Jesus] . . .rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”
When describing the area around the Sea of Galilee, Roman/Jewish historian Josephus Flavius wrote that “its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty . . . all sorts of trees can grow upon it . . . walnuts . . . flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, fig trees and olives grow near them . . . it supplies men with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year. . . “
Yet in the centuries following the first Moslem conquest the land became desolate and bare. It was only after Jewish settlement returned to the region, beginning with Degania in 1909, that the area once again flourished.
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