Israel Trip Journal- Day 5 pt. 1: Tiberias, Mt of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Since the Leonardo Club Tiberias is a resort hotel, we had a huge breakfast buffet to choose from. There were omelets made to order, fresh pancakes, and a lot of vegetables and dairy products as elsewhere in Israel.
Sea of Galilee from balcony of  Leonardo Club Tiberias
(photo courtesy Paul S.)

One of the oddest food choices was the fresh chopped vegetable bar. There was a chef who chopped raw onions, bell peppers and tomatoes into three large bowls.

My sister, daughter and I were wondering why she was chopping (and not cooking) these items for breakfast. Later, we saw a man with a plate heaped with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes-which he ate without any condiments as an entree. I’m sure it was a very healthy breakfast, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone eat such a dish before.

The yogurt was delicious too. I can usually do with or without yogurt. However, the yogurt we had at each hotel in Israel was smooth with no tartness. As a matter of fact, I discovered that I was not lactose intolerant to any milk products in Israel (nor Germany– which was our next destination after leaving Israel).
Unfortunately, the only meat offered here for breakfast was cold pickled herring–as I mentioned in a previous post, I am definitely a meat lover. So, we enjoyed a large, but delicious and fresh vegetarian breakfast.

Mount of Beatitudes

Our first stop this morning was the Mount of Beatitudes. The Mount of Beatitudes is the place where by tradition Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6). The Sermon on the Mount focuses on 9 verses, each beginning with ‘blessed’- which in Latin is ‘beati.’ This is why it came to be called the Mount of Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:1 states that He went to a mountainside, while Luke describes it as a level place.

View of Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes
(photo courtesy Paul S.)

Since there are many level places on the Galilean hillsides, this is not actually a discrepancy. At the beginning of Luke 7 it says “When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, He entered Capernaum,” this was in reference to the events of Luke 6. So, even though the exact place of Jesus’ teaching is not known, the place where we sat between Capernaum and Tabgha on the hillside is a reasonable choice.

From our vantage point, we could see the Sea of Galilee as Raouf spoke to us about the Sermon on the Mount. It was a perfect clear day in a beautifully tended estate owned by the Roman Catholic Franciscan Church.

When Raouf finished his talk, we were given some time to wander through the grounds and take pictures. At this point, many bus loads of tourists converged upon the place and this is when we realized why Raouf had been so determined to get us up and out so early every morning. We had become so accustomed to being the only tour group at each Biblical site that we had not realized that there were a multitude of other tourists out and about the countryside each day.



Quickly, we got back onto the bus and only a stone’s throw away, we arrived at Tabgha. Tabgha is two miles west of Capernaum. Its name was originally Heptapegon, which means “seven springs” in Greek, but the name has been corrupted to Tabgha. Only six of the springs have been discovered in modern times. These springs produced water which was much warmer than that of the Sea of Galilee, this in turn produces algae and attracts fish, making this a popular fishing spot for centuries.
One of the mosaics on the floor in the chapel- the artist was not
aware that none of the fish in the Sea of Galilee have two dorsal fins

Tabgha is traditionally the place where Jesus chose His twelve disciples, as detailed in the synoptic gospels: Mark 1:16-19; Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:1-11. As this place would have been a prime fishing spot, it makes sense that the events described could occur here. Tabgha is also by tradition the place where Jesus fed the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21).

In commemoration of this event, there is a restored Byzantine Church here called the Church of the Multiplicationof the Bread and theFishes. However, even though this is a viable location for the choosing of the twelve, the Byzantine pilgrims were incorrect in selecting this as the location of the multiplication. Luke 9:10-17 states that the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 occurred in the region of Bethsaida.

Church of the Multiplication koi pond

The church is lovely though, with a koi pond and well-preserved mosaic floors in places. One of the mosaics is of a bread-filled basket with a fish on either side. The fish depicted have two dorsal fins, however, since there are no fish in the Sea of Galilee that have two dorsal fins, the artist was obviously not a local fisherman.


Church of the Primacy

Church of the Primacy

After taking pictures and patronizing the gift shop, we were on to our next stop. We traveled a short distance to the Church of the Primacy– Mensa Christi – where Jesus asked Peter to feed His sheep (John 21).

Tradition has it that here along the sea shore is the place where Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to several of His disciples (John 21:1-2). After performing a miracle of providing the fishermen with 153 large fish, Jesus offered the men a fish breakfast on the shore (John 21:4-12).
This was the third time Jesus had appeared to His disciples since He had been raised from the dead (John 21:14). This was also when Jesus offers Peter the opportunity to redeem himself from his prior failure of denying Jesus (Matthew 26:74). Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him, and bids him prove it by shepherding His sheep (John 21:15-17).
The Catholic church believes that this passage coupled with the passage in Matthew 16:16-18, is the basis for the ‘primacy of Peter,’ thus the name for the church here. This is the origin of papal primacy (the institution of the office of pope). Protestants believe, however, that the John passage is merely a reinstatement of Peter, who no doubt had to be dealing with a great deal of guilt over his past actions.
“Feed My Sheep”- courtesy Paul S.

Further, Protestants believe that the Matthew passage in the context of the location of the conversation is the key to the real meaning of Jesus’ statement: “and upon this rock I will build my church.” I will go into more detail about that in my Day 5 pt. 2 post under ‘Gates of Hades.’

The Church of the Primacy is a basaltic structure erected in 1933 over the ruins of a 4th century chapel. There is a large flat rock in the chapel in front of the alter called Mensa Christi, the traditional location of where Jesus prepared the disciples’ breakfast.

There are covered prayer pavilions on the northwest side of the church. Raouf had two of the teen boys read from the scripture and then he spoke to us about the significance of this place. After we had prayed, we were released to walk about the grounds and go down to the seashore for pictures.


Sea of Galilee
By now, more tourists were arriving and we headed out to our next destination. We arrived at Kibbutz Ginosar for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee! Kibbutz Ginosar or Gennesaret is not far from Kibbutz Kinnereth or Kinneret (the kibbutz that operates the Yardenit Baptismal site mentioned in my Day 4 post).

The Sea of Galilee seen from the deck of our boat

The name Gennesaret may seem familiar to anyone who has studied Jesus’ life. In Matthew 14:34, and Mark 6:53 Jesus had just calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and then they crossed over to Gennesaret. In Luke 5:1-11, the Lake of Gennesaret is mentioned in Luke’s account of the calling of the twelve disciples.

 Gennesaret is on the northwest shore of the Sea, it was originally allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. The ancient town of Gennesaret no longer exists, but  Kibbutz Ginosar takes its name from that ancient locale, as does Kibbutz Kinnereth. The town also lends its name to the Sea of Galilee which is often referred to as the Lake of Gennesaret.
Enjoying Lake Gennesaret from the bow of the boat

The Sea of Galilee also called Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake in the world (702 ft below sea level) and the second lowest lake in the world–the Dead Sea is lower. It is fed mostly by the Jordan River which runs in at the northern end and out at the southern end.

 As we pushed off, the boat crew raised the US flag and played the Star Spangled Banner. They had some trinkets for sale as well. Although they are practicing Jews, they played Amazing Grace by Elvis at the beginning of the trip. I assume they have a flag for every major country and some kind of inspirational music in various languages to increase the goodwill of each tour group.
Raouf gave us background information and then several of us headed to the bow of the boat for a better view. I could not believe I was actually sailing on the Sea of Galilee– I never really thought I would experience this. After about an hour–I didn’t really check the time– we arrived back at the dock. And, similar to Jesus and his disciples, once our boat tour was over, we ‘landed at Gennesaret and anchored there’ (Mark 6:53).
The ‘Jesus Boat’ 

Once on shore, we walked over to the Kibbutz Ginosar Museum to see the “Jesus Boat.” Ginosar is the site of a great discovery– a 2,000 year old fishing boat was found in the mud. During a severe drought in 1986, the water level in the Sea of Galilee dropped low enough to reveal the frame of an ancient fishing boat.

A massive effort to ‘rescue’ the ancient boat from the mire was undertaken. The boat was so waterlogged, archaeologists had to devise a way to raise the fragile craft from the muck without damaging it.

Restored 1st century fishing boat

The solution was to coat the vessel with a polyurethane manufactured in Galveston, Texas by the plant where our own tour leader, Jim worked for 20 years. Once covered with this special plastic, the area around the boat could be flooded with water and the vessel would float up out of the sludge.

Close up view of the ‘Jesus Boat’

This monumental rescue effort took 12 days and nights, but they were successful in preventing damage to the vessel. The boat had to be submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it was ready to be displayed at the kibbutz’s museum.

A boat sailing on the Sea of Galilee (photo courtesy Paul S.)


After we watched a short video about the discovery and excavation effort, Raouf gave us one of his mini-lectures. After we took several pictures, we browsed the gift shop, then placed our lunch orders at the kibbutz’ cafe. They seemed very pleased to have our group there and invited us to all sit downstairs in the basement dining area.

We had quite a bit of down time here, so after lunch we (my sister, daughter and I) sat outside warming ourselves in the sun. From time to time small groups of  teenaged girls and boys with guns and splattered in mud would pass us on their way to the bathrooms and cafe. They looked as if they had been doing military maneuvers.

As military service is mandated by law, all Israeli teens have to serve 3 years (2 for most girls) in the military when they turn 18. We found it amusing, that some of the girls were still quite ‘girly’ despite the uniforms, guns and mud. Of course, with a conscripted military, the girly ones have no choice about serving. I was struck that they were obviously the same age as my daughter and her friends. Although I understand why this is necessitated here, I felt thankful that I live in a country without a mandatory draft for our teenaged daugters.

Next postDay 5 pt. 2:Caesarea Philippi & The Galilee