In sharp contrast to the bustling streets of Jerusalem and the sun-kissed beaches of Tel Aviv, is the beautiful and typically tranquil Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. Situated in the Jordan rift valley, at approximately 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee is the world’s lowest fresh water lake.
The Sea of Galilee is known in the Bible as the Sea of Kinneret, and to local Israelis, as the Kinneret. The Hebrew word for harp is kinnor, so the Kinneret is descriptive of the “harp-like” shape of the lake. The Sea of Galilee is also referred to in the Gospels as Lake of Gennesaret or Sea of Tiberias.
One of the earliest settled regions in Israel, the Sea of Galilee has changed relatively little since the time of Jesus, who chose the area as His center of ministry. Much of His Galilee ministry was based in the fishing town of Capernaum, where He lived, selected His first disciples, taught and performed many miracles.
As Israel’s largest freshwater lake, the Sea of Galilee not only affords breathtaking vistas and charming beaches nestled along its 13-mile coastline, but it also provides a near-pristine look back in time to a landscape quite familiar to Jesus and His disciples. Fed by the upper Jordan River, this large lake is surrounded by broad, fertile valleys and numerous biblical sites:
Seated on the western coastline of the Sea of Galilee, Magdala (near present-day Migdal) is best-known as the home of Mary Magdalene. In recent years, the ancient town has begun to emerge as a unique Holy Land site. Archaeologists unearthed a first-century synagogue, believed to be a location where Jesus taught. Further excavations also revealed a first-century Jewish town, as well as the Magdala Stone—an artifact of one of the earliest depictions of the Second Temple, and what many archaeologists consider the most significant archaeological discovery in decades.
Mount of Beatitudes
Just a few miles to the north of Magdala is the Mount of Beatitudes. This is where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This mountain slope forms a natural amphitheater where a single voice could be heard by thousands of people.
At the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes is Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplication. This site commemorates the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes when Jesus miraculously fed over 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13-21).
Nearby at the water’s edge stands the Mensa Christi Church — the table of Christ. This is where Jesus is believed to have made a post-Resurrection appearance to Peter and six other disciples (John 21:1-14), fed them breakfast, and challenged Peter to feed His sheep.
Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
No visit to the Sea of Galilee is complete without a ride on its beautiful waters. There you can remember the biblical accounts of Jesus walking on these vary waters and calming the sea in the midst of a dangerous storm.
A visit to the Sea of Galilee is both refreshing and enlightening. Its rich history, paired with its dazzling jewel-like waters, cozy resorts, hot springs, and sprawling hiking trails, makes it the perfect marriage of the sacred and spectacular.