Holiday at the Sea of Galilee

Published on Tuesday, 09 July 2013 by Webmaster

Holiday at the Sea of Galilee
In and out of Israel’s largest freshwater lake, there’s enough to see and experience for several days.

You probably know it best as the Sea of Galilee, but Israel's largest freshwater reservoir is actually a lake -- the only natural freshwater lake in the country and the lowest freshwater lake in the world.Known as Lake Kinneret in Israel, this focal point of the Galilee is surrounded by beaches and a huge assortment of historic, natural, archeological, recreational and religious sites for visitors of all ages and interests.

The Kinneret, which receives most of its water from the northern Jordan River, naturally offers lots of boat rides and water sports. You can rent a canoe at places like Rob Roy's Canoes near Kibbutz Kinneret, or book a cruise at the Yigal Alon Harbor in Tiberias, one of the lake's most prominent and ancient shore cities.

The lake area has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and many fisherman have long thrived in the shore areas. The Kinneret Sailing Company offers a one-hour expedition where guests watch a net-fishing crew at work and learn about fishing in the Sea of Galilee today. Up to seven people can book a hands-on, four-hour "Fisherman for a day" cruise. Both trips depart from the harbor at Kibbutz Ein Gev every Friday.

Speaking of the kibbutz, the communal movement had its start on the southern shores of the Kinneret. The very first cooperative farming village, Degania Aleph (A), was founded here by Romanian immigrants in 1909. Degania Bet (B) followed in 1920. Today at "Aleph" you can still see its first building, a small history museum and a stained glass gallery.

Degania Aleph's Gordon House, founded in 1935, is one of the first nature museums of its kind in Israel. The museum's rich collection tells the story of settlement in the area through artifacts found from inhabitants dating back to prehistoric times until the beginning of Zionism. It has a diverse taxidermy collection, films about the local nature and settlement of the area and an archeological display. And there are personal items and letters from A.D. Gordon, a pioneer hero of the "Second Aliyah," the second wave of immigration from Russia between 1904 and 1914.

For a more modern treat, sign up for a three-hour workshop at Galita Chocolate Farm, a chocolate factory and retail outlet housed in a former old cowshed at Kibbutz Degania Bet. Proprietress Galit Alpert also runs a coffee bar selling homemade ice cream.

A Kibbutz Experience train tour takes visitors through Kibbutz Ein Gev, which offers lakeside guesthouses on the eastern shore of the Kinneret. The 30-minute guided tour leaves at 12:30 and 2:30 on Sundays through Fridays and every hour from noon till dusk on Saturdays and holidays. You'll hear how the kibbutz, founded in 1937 by a group including Teddy Kollek, future mayor of Jerusalem, weathered attacks from Syria until the Six-Day War.

At Ein Gev's harbor-side woodworking shop, Saba Yosi's Workshop, kids and their parents may build (or buy) wooden toys from kits and climb the pirate ship designed and built by Saba (Grandpa) Yosi. And there's also the House of Anchors museum, opened in 1995 with a unique collection of ancient fishing-related artifacts found around the lake area, relating the story of fishermen in the Sea of Galilee in the last 3,000 years.

If you happen to visit during Passover, you can catch the annual Ein Gev Festival, the first music festival to be held in the state of Israel.

Animal lovers may enjoy Jungle Fun at Kibbutz Beit Zera, a petting zoo housing songbirds, toucans, rare mammals and a group of squirrel monkeys living in a tropical garden. Just northwest of the kibbutz is Tel Ubeidiya, a major archeological site discovered in 1959 that has yielded prehistoric remains starting from about 1.5 million years ago -- the oldest remains found outside Africa -- and more than 10,000 ancient stone tools.

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