May-2021, 28-August-2021; Photography by Angela Hechtfisch
“Yardenit” at Tiberias
The visit to Tiberias, situated in the north part of Israel about 1 hour from Tel Aviv, on an extremely hot summer weekend, was nothing short of AMAZING. We started at the “Yardenit” that is situated on the banks of the Jordan River at Kibutz “Kineret”(village), at the Southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, which host each year half of a million Christian pilgrims, who come to experience the tranquility and spiritual beauty of the waters in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The response of the followers was heart full and overwhelming. There is another baptism location in the surrounding of Jerico called “Qasr al-Yahud” and it is also traditionally believed to be Jesus baptized spot, but since the river Jordan is mostly a border between Israel and the state of Jordan, this facility is less toured and less preserved.
Visitors to “Yardeni”t are greeted by this very verse from Mark’s account : “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven; ‘Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)
Entry to the site is free and has handrails and wheelchair-accessible ramps leading into the river. Over the years, Yardenit has welcomed many well-known personalities as well as ordinary everyday people. Believers may rent or purchase white baptism robes on site. There are quiet areas for group prayers and contemplation. They take pride in respecting the religious sensitivities of the visitors. The river banks themselves retain their pastoral landscapes, with rich greenery and wildlife. Otters and fish swim freely in the river.
Tiberia’s “Church of the Multiplication”
The “Church of the Multiplication“, also known as the “Church of Loaves & Fish”, is located at “Tabgha”, 15 minutes car drive to the north from the “Yardenit”, on the bank of the Sea of Galilee (Kineret). The church marks the site where Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. This was also the site where Jesus appeared for the fourth time after his resurrection. The Miracle of Multiplication, as appear in Mark 6:30-46, tells how Jesus and his disciples went out on the water to a remote site in search of some peace of mind. Crowds of Jesus’ followers came after them and as night fell there was nowhere around to find food for the multitudes. To feed the crowd of five thousand people Jesus performed a miracle sharing two fish and five loaves among the entire crowd. Shortly after Jesus walked on this very water.
There is NO Biblical location reference other than stating “a remote place on the shores of the Galilee”. The Church of the Multiplication has gone through deconstruction & rebuilt again and again since its establishment in 350 AD and today the Church of the Multiplication is a modern structure built on the remains of the original church.
The mosaic near the altar shows two fish on either side of a basket of loaves. Beneath the altar of the Church of the Multiplication is a large rock where it is thought that Jesus placed the fish and loaves as he blessed them. There is a glass panel on the floor through which you can see the foundations of the original church. In the church courtyard, you can see excavated basalt stone font and oil presses.
The “Church of the Beatitudes”
Subject to the Roman Catholic clerky is the “Church of the Beatitudes” located on the top of Mount carrying the same name, a short trip from Tabgha of the Sea of Galilee overlooking it and the remains of Jesu’s town of Capernaum. The Church was built between 1936 and 1938, and most Christian traditions reflect this place as the place where he gave his procession of “Sermon on the Mount”, emphasizing his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew.
The “Beatitudes” are eight blessings recounted by Jesus begin with the Latin word “beati”, which translates to “happy” or “blessed”. Each Beatitude consists of two parts: the condition and the result. Most of the phrases are familiar from the (Jewish) bible context, but the “Sermon on the Mount” elevates them to a higher level of understanding and compassion. The Beatitudes present the next spiritual level focusing on love and humility NOT power and control.
Matthew 5:3–12 reads as followed:
“(3)Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (4)Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (5)Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. (6)Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (7)Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (8)Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (9)Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (10)Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. (11)Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (12)Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The entire site is like a beautiful Suriel view overlooking the Sea of Galilee from all four corners. It is undoubtedly the best panoramic view from any place in the regent. The gardens surrounding the “Church of the Beatitudes” are tidy exceptionally well kept. The Church itself is modern and reserve in its character.
Capernaum’s Greek Orthodox Church
The Church of the Holy Apostles of the Greek Orthodox order is located at Capernaum (Or in Hebrew “Kfar Nachum”), a structure signified with its 12 pink tops in a quiet and isolated position on the shores of the northeast Sea of Galilee, tranquil, somehow off the road BUT a part of the Gospel (Jesus) trail. After established 1931 and until 1969, it was pretty much deserted following it been on No-mans-land between the borders of Israel and Syria. The Church has beautiful colored art decoration made especially in Greece then glued onto the church walls. On every 18th of January, a baptized ceremony of the Epiphany day occurs, a few meters shy of the Church itself.
The Church aligns and connected to the south of Capernaum national park and north from the ancient village of Capernaum(disconnected without being able walking in between these two). This village is frequently mentioned in the Gospels and as Jesus’ hometown. It is referred to as a place where he lived, and the synagogue of Capernaum was where he first started to preach.
“Capernaum” – Jesus town
The ancient Capernaum also referred to as “Jesus Town”, is boarded with its north walls to Capernaum national park’s Greek Orthodox church, mention above. The 1st known inhabitant of the village was suggested to be in the 2nd century B.C, and has a continued livelihood throughout early Roman time( the period of Jesus activity), later Byzant, until its destruction in 749 A.D by a severe earthquake. In 1838 the American Edward Robinson, a Biblical Archaeology also knick named the “Father of Biblical Geography” had distinguished the village as the biblical Capenahum, then Capernahum excavated in 1905 by German Heinrich Kohl & Carl Watzinger, only to be continued 2 years later by the Franciscans order (primarily within the Catholic Church. Founded in 1209) with the excavation of the Old Jewish Synagogue (also nearby is another Synagogue which Jesus may have preached in the town of Magdala). The name of “Caper Nachum” originated from the Hebrew meaning “village of comfort” is referred to as Jesus’ town, where Jesus lived (apparently in Petrus house) and taught in the synagogue for at least 2 years. While of one of given ministry he healed a possessed man from an unclean spirit.
In Luke 4:31-36: “31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!”.
The Modern Pilgrimage Church of St. Peter in Capernaum is dedicated to St. Peter, which tradition claims his house positioned exactly underneath, that is considered to be “the first church in the world”. Later in the 5th century A.D an octagonal church was built in its place, and the modern church was built over these remains in 1990, and hovers above.
Chorizim National Park
4 kilometers northwest of Capernaum, on a mountain top, lies the ancient village of Chorazine (Chorizim in Hebrew), a tranquil national park with biblical history. This village was cursed by Jesus after the local Jewish community opposed his ministry.
In Luke 10: 13-15 it is written: 13“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
Jesus’s prophesy was realized eventually with the complete description of the village, BUT only 800 years later.
In the restructured village you find a beautiful old synagogue visible assumed to be built in the late 3rd century, destroyed and later rebuilt in the 6th century. Like most facilities in Chorizim, it is made from basalt, a black volcanic rock found in the area. The synagogue has a “Seat of Moses,” suspectly for use of honoring the respectable man in the community, and alongside traditional Jewish ornament, there are also decorations with Hellenistic figuration. Also, a purification pool (Jewish Mikve) and a structure that uses a “Choroizim Window” architect technique, to support the heavy roof and allow air circulation, is near the synagogue. Another significant finding are the 3 olive millstones used in olive oil extraction suggest a reliance on the olive for economic purposes, like the wheat-growing which the Village was known and famous for.
“Mount Arbel” Next to Tiberias
We continued our Tiberias must-see places by visiting “Mount Arbel” national park, just 10 minutes driving to the south. Mount Arbel is a stunning mountain that overlooks the Sea of Galilee from a height difference of 390 meters with an astonishing 360 degrees view, starting to the east with the sea of Galilee, to the west with a panoramic look to the Upper-Galilee mountain stretch, to the South with a look of “Karney Hittin”, a plateau which held a historical battle in 1187 between the Jerusalem-Kingdom of the crusaders against the Muslim led by the victorious Salah al-Din which ultimately resulted in the country being the next 700 years under Muslim supremacy, or at the north with the snowy white color Golan mountains in the winter.
Arbel’s “Carob (tree) view”
You won’t find many trees on Mount Arbel but at the “Carob view” the supported lonely (carob) tree can be seen from miles. This carob has been seriously damaged as a result of the strong winds of the winter of 2016 but has been recovered with the help of the National Park Association in 2019. A 5 minutes “Black” trail walk leads to it from entry.
Arbel’s “Sea of Galilee (Kineret) view / Roee Dror R.I.P Bird observatory” and the “Blue” trail
We split from the “Black” track and take an east-south turn to the “Blue” trail, which stretches for 750 meters downhill, finalizing in the Beautiful “Sea(of Galilee) view” of the breathtaking northwest parts of the “Kineret”. This overview, named after Surgent Roee Dror R.I.P, an Israeli commando warrior who sadly lost his life on the mountain while training, continues an extra of 3.5 k.m downhill ending at the “Labor Regiment Parking(zone)”. This track is for the advanced hiker (includes all that it means).
The circular “fortress” track – “BlackRed” trail
Also, there is an extreme circular track combing the “Black” trail for downclimbing & the “Red” trail for Upclimbing, and it is intended for the progressive walkers. It is NOT recommended to the elder NOR for children, especially NOT in the hot summer season. Some parts of the walking include using in rock implants of iron steps, making it challenging and somehow scary, culminating in the famous “Wall” at the end of the Red trail. This complete circular track may take around 2 hours.
The “Green” trail and the “Nitai” accessible View at Arbel’s
It is must mention the beautifully paved front-sit observatory called “Nitai View” at Arbel’s northwest side, located 200 meters from Arbel’s gate entry overlooking the “Nitai” cliff. It offers accessibility to those who are mobile-limited. The “Green” trail, a 500 meters rock path, stretches from the “Nitai View”, and reveals an exciting cliff view.
General track rules
All tracks options must have the following: hat, sunglasses, outdoor shoes, water supply, suncream, cellular phone. The park grounds close at 17:00 and admission fees are 22 Shekels per adult.
“Arbel” old synagogue
On the Arbel national park, you can also find “Arbel” old synagogue remains, part of the ancient “Arbel” Jewish village dating back to the 2nd Temple era.
“Hammat Tiberias” National Park
A good start is NOT to confuse with “Hamey Tiberias” also known as “Tiberias Hot Springs” which is located just in front of “Hammat Tiberias” National park. This park is an ancient archaeological site along the west shores of the Sea of Galilee (in Hebrew “Kineret”) in Tiberias.
Hamat Tiberias has 17 natural water springs that are known even before the establishment of the city of Tiberias by Herods Antipas, the son of Herods the Great and the governor of the north part of Judea, naming the city after the Roman Emporer Tiberias. By tradition, its antiquity for the spring curative properties goes back to the days of King Solomon that send some hell devils to heat the water underneath the ground and made them deaf so they did NOT hear of Solomon passing away and since this, the devils still operate nowadays. Following the Jerusalem Talmud, a village named “Hamat”, which means several springs, once existed distinct from Tiberias. from the time of the Romans in the 1st century AD a bath and a sauna are still found, and after 30 years of dry out because of the low water level of the sea of Galilee has now returned flowing again, even if its 60 Celcius degrees does NOT allow it for use.
There are also 3 more open-air natural water springs pools that have the temperature of 4035 and 30 degrees that are wonderfully used to soak and bath, especially in the winter cold air. The facility is after a serious reconstruction by private funding sponsorship in 2013. Entry fees are 14 shekels for an adult and the showers are well kept.
Another amazing feature of Hamat Tiberias is the founding of remains ancient synagogues from the times of 3rd century AD when the city of Tiberias was the seat of the Sanhedrin, the location of signing the “Jerusalem Talmud” and the center of Jewish spiritual center after the destruction of Jerusalem. Actually, these synagogues were destroyed and rebuilt 4 times, at the same spot, a consequence of Turks Automan’s destruction and earth quicks.
The mosaic floor in the synagogue is made up of three panels featuring: inscriptions and dedications:
the 12 symbols of the zodiac panel, including Helios the sun God in its center, an outcome of Roman influence, and 4 women symbolizing the 4 year seasons; The names of the Zodiac symbols are written in Hebrew but it seems to be the artist making the mosaic was NOT a Hebrew since the sign of Aquarius (“Dli” in Hebrew) was written mirrored up-side-down. in the south panel depicts of the house of Temple in Jerusalem with Jewish signs such as the menorah, shofar horn, arbaa-minim plants. It is also commonly named the “Severus synagogue” because of the Greek text inscribe inside the north part of the mosiac:
“Severus the pupil of the most illustrious patriarchs”.
It is worth mentioning that a 1-minute walk above & outside the facility lies the Rabi Meir the miracle maker tomb, which in this time of Corona was closed.
Last but NOT least, a short word on the hotel we stayed at: “Villa Europe 1917”. A little piece of heaven. A reconstructed boutique hotel from the beginning of the 20th century, with fabulous rooms, great food, and a historical atmosphere.
“Europe 1917” Hotel, Tiberias
Last but NOT least, a few words on the hotel we stayed at while visiting Tiberias: “Villa Europe 1917”. A little piece of heaven. A reconstructed boutique hotel with a history dating back to the early 20th century, in the ancient center part of the city, and preserves its authentic European elements, just 200 meters from the Sea of galilee waterfront and boardwalk, with fabulous rooms, great food, and a historical atmosphere.
Hotel “Europe 1917” is a real gem and housed in a historic building, which has been used as a luxury hotel since the year 1917. In 1930 it was acquired by the Tiberian Ovad family, and after years of prosperity, it changed its purpose and face, only later to be abandoned. Zohar, a descendant of that family purchased the building and brought back its past glory after an extensive renovation and preservation work, which lasted for five years.
At Europa 1917 Hotel one find a (kosher) restaurant with amazing breakfast; We found the level of cuisine simply extraordinary. The buffet span widely from traditional French cooking to Japanese sushi. The room was fully equipped and kept extremely clean.
Sea of Galilee beaches
We saved the best to the last; The number 1 attraction at the Sea of Galilee (Kineret) is its beautiful beaches that cool you off on a hot summer day. After all, this area is one of the warmest places in the country, and degrees can reach 45 delicious in the shade. Therefore, we would recommend a swim in the chilly water, enjoying sunbathing outside while putting your BBQ on fire.
On the west side of the Sea of Galilee lies the “Capernaum” beach in a natural wild state. On the contrary, the east side shores are more modernize. one of the many beaches can be the “Gofra”. This equipped beach includes the entire facilities such as lifeguard, minimarket, public showers & toilets, an accessible path for the handicap, and locations ready for BBQ and camping.
If camping is NOT your cup of tea, we suggest Tiberias no.1 overnight stay, which is the remarkable “Scots Hotel” (Tiberias) with its well-known luxuries “Saint Urban Wine Cellar & Bar”. The Scots also has a Spa & Lakeview Wellness, an Upper-class Torrance restaurant, a swimming pool, and a beach garden with 1st front view of the Sea.