Sea of Galilee: Perfect place for a Christian pilgrimage

Published on Thursday, 28 March 2013 by Webmaster

Sea of Galilee: Perfect place for a Christian pilgrimage
"And Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" Matthew 4:23.

The Sea of Galilee, known as Lake Kinneret to Israelis, lies on the ancient Via Maris that linked Egypt with the northern empires. Its strategic location and excellent fishing made the lake’s vicinity a popular place for Greek, Hasmonean and Roman settlement. And because Jesus of Nazareth grew up in this area, his ministry revolved around the Sea of Galilee.

The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke describe how Jesus recruited the Galilee fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew and the brothers John and James as apostles. His famous Sermon on the Mount is believed to have been delivered on a hill overlooking the lake, and this is also the body of water upon which the Gospels say he walked. The miracle of the loaves and fishes took place on its banks.

That’s why, ever since the times of the Byzantine Empire, the Sea of Galilee and its environs have attracted countless Christian pilgrims. Today, Christian tourists account for at least 65 percent of incoming tourism to Israel. And in the Sea of Galilee region, there’s more than ever to tie modern believers with the origins of Christianity.

The Sea of Galilee itself is a major Christian tourist attraction because this is where Jesus is said to have walked on the water (John 6:19-21), calmed a storm (Matthew 8:23-26) and showed the disciples miraculous catches of fish (Luke 5:1-8; John 21:1-6). Several tour companies offer Christian-themed boat rides, and there's even a "Walking on Water" Christian tour around the lake.

Speaking of walking, the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund inaugurated the $3 million Gospel Trail  in November 2011 along the paths that Jesus is believed to have walked on his way from his childhood home of Nazareth to the future center of his ministry in Capernaum (Kfar Nahum, in Hebrew) on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The signposted footpaths and roads of the 62-kilometer trail, which begins at Mount Precipice near Nazareth, can be traveled by foot, bicycle or car.

Not to be confused with the Gospel Trail (although there is necessarily some overlap) is the ecology-centric Jesus Trail, completed in February 2008 at the initiative of Israeli backpacking/hostelling industry pioneer Maoz Inon. This route runs 65 kilometers, beginning in Nazareth about 16 miles from the Sea of Galilee and passing through Zippori National Park, Cana, Moshav Ilaniya, Kibbutz Lavi, Karnei Hittin, Nebi Shu'eib, Arbel National Park, Migdal, the "Jesus Boat Museum" at Kibbutz Ginosar (where a 2,000-year-old boat raised from the Sea of Galilee is exhibited), Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum.

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