Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2)

Israel, a land bridge between Asia, Europe, and Africa, is a small country with land area slightly less than 8000 square miles (263 miles north to south and 9 to 71 miles west to east). Its diverse geography can be partitioned into four:
  • Western Mediterranean Coast which includes the Sharon Plain and the Philistine Plain,
  • Middle range mountains hugging the Lebanese border which consists of areas of upper Galilee, lower Galilee, Nazareth, etc.,
  • Jordan rift valley comprising of the Dead Sea, Jordan River, and parts of the Sea of Galilee mostly below sea level (Dead Sea at 420 m below sea level is the lowest point in the world), and
  • Negev Desert covering 4,633 sq miles in the south.
Mountains climb 200 m above sea level in the lowland Mediterranean, up to 600 m in the middle and lower Galilee, 1200 m in the upper Galilee, and 2500 m around Mount Hermon (Israeli controlled Golan Heights).

We entered Israel crossing Jordan River through the Sheikh Hussein Bridge between Irbid, Jordan and Beit She’an, Israel. Beit She’an is located between the Jordan River valley and Jezreel valley. The Jezreel and Beit She’an valleys are the farming strongholds of Israel. Our route to Yardenit, the baptismal site on the Jordan River, was through the Jordan River Valley (Yarden stands for Jordan or Jordan River in Hebrew). As the original site is a military zone, this is an alternate location with a fully commercialized tourist facility built and maintained by the Kibbutz Kinneret in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism (established 1981). Originally a collective community based on agriculture, Kibbutz has since branched out to other economic areas including tourism, industry, and high-tech enterprises. Architect Danny Bar Kama designed the main facility as a nave of a church. The approach is gorgeous with a limestone pathway flanked by olive trees and date palms, complete with a barrel vault arch and a wall with water and three fountains representing the three main tributaries of the Jordan River. The wall on the right border of the pathway, “The Wall of New Life” designed by Armenian artist Hagop Antreassian, is inscripted with verses Mark 1:9-11 from the Bible in several languages -

"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."

“The Wall of New Life” moniker is based on the belief that with baptism, one becomes a new person as stated in the verse Cor 5:17 -

"Therefore, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

The welcome center at Yardenit houses a gift shop, a mini baptismal site and a restaurant which serves among other things the traditional St. Peter’s fish. Past the welcome center are the baptismal pools and changing rooms. Barring the religious holiday of Yom Kippur (the day of atonement), the site is open all days from 8AM - 5PM (Mar - Nov) and from 8AM - 6PM (Dec – Feb), with shortened hours on Fridays (4 PM), and on the eve of certain holidays (1 PM) for Passover,  Jewish New Year, and Independence Day. We found the gift shop at the site more expensive than those at Bethlehem and Jerusalem, although Yardenit branded items were readily available in this store.

Lunch was at the Tiberias seaside restaurant, around 20 minutes north of Yardenit along the Sea of Galilee coast – quality par excellence for setting, food and service – St. Peter’s Fish, rice and pita bread, accompanied with a variety of salads, and dates for dessert. “St. Peter’s Fish” (tilapia) gets its name from the biblical passage of Mathew 17:24-27 –

When Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax (two-drachma) came to Apostle Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?". "Of course", Peter answered. When Peter went into the house, Jesus spoke first, "Simon, What is your opinion? Who pays duties or taxes to the kings of this world? The citizens of the country or the foreigners?". "The foreigners" answered Peter. "Well, then" replied Jesus. "That means that the citizens don't have to pay. But we don't want to offend these people. So, go to the lake and drop in a line. Pull up the first fish you hook, and in its mouth you will find a coin (four-drachma) worth enough for my temple tax and yours. Take it and pay them our taxes."

First stop after lunch was at the Church of Multiplication in Tabgha, about 15 minutes north of Tiberias by the Sea of Galilee. The church features several 5th century original mosaics. A mosaic in front of the altar depicts two fish flanking a basket containing loaves of bread. It is the traditional site of the miracle of multiplication of the loaves and fishes per the verses of Mark 6:30-46. The church is built on the foundation of earlier churches and this can be observed through a glass panel. The current church was built to the same floor plan as the 5th century Byzantine church which in turn was built at the site of a smaller 4th century chapel.


Located 5 minutes North of Tabgha in the town of Capernaum is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. Capernaum is also known as the Town of Jesus as it was Jesus’s main base during his ministry. There are several references of Capernaum in the Bible including Mathew 4:13 – “And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum …”. The Gospel of Luke also references Capernaum as the home of the apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John who were fisherman, and Matthew, a tax collector. The site has a beautiful hexagonal shaped church built in 1990 by the Franciscan Church. It is elevated on pillars and the interior has a see-through glass floor - below the church stood St. Peter’s House discovered in 1968 – the site had several churches, the earliest being from around 4th century AD. An adjacent site has the ruins of a synagogue which dates back to the 5th century. The “white synagogue” has a layer of black basalt foundation which is believed to be the remnants of an earlier synagogue where Jesus taught and healed a man who had the spirit of the devil, as referenced in Luke 4:31-44. Other miracles attributed to the site include – healing of the servant of a Roman Centurion (Luke 7:1-10) and  the healing of the paralytic lowered through the roof to reach Jesus (Mark 2:1).

The third stop was at the Church of the Beatitudes, the traditional site of Jesus’ delivery of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus gave this sermon of moral teachings to his disciples and to a large crowd according to the Canonical Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5-7). The current church was built in 1936 near the site of the 4th century Byzantine ruins. Each side of this octagonal church represents one of the eight beatitudes. The church has a striking garden and the setting is a natural amphitheater - any sound produced is clearly audible for people within 200 yards.

The last item in the itinerary for the day was a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee from Ginosar to Tiberias. It is a very relaxing experience (about an hour) with the staff participating in a couple of dances to Hebrew Music – Shalom Aleichem and such ($1-$2 tip recommended). For those traveling outside of a tour group, the best bet would be to check with the captain for seat availability, as boats may be tied up with tour groups – usually around $10. Ginosar also has the “Boat of Jesus” on display at the Yigal Allon Museum, a fisherman boat dating back to the 1st century AD, and uncovered in 1986 when a drought caused the waters of the Galilee to recede – apparently the mud helped preserve the hull. A full-size reproduction of the boat is also on display on the grounds of Kubbutz Ginosar. The tour bus collected us at Tiberias and we proceeded for overnight stay at the Plaza Hotel in Nazareth, about 45-minutes South-East. As Sabbath was starting the roads were relatively empty allowing us to reach the hotel in no time.

 Related Posts:

  1. Holyland Trip Report - Jordan - Mount Nebo, Madaba - Day 1.
  2. Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2).
  3. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Nazareth, Cana, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Bethlehem (Day 3).
  4. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Jerusalem (Day 4).
  5. Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea (Day 5).
  6. Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai (Day 6).
  7. Holyland Trip Report – Suez Canal, Cairo - Day 7.
  8. Holyland Trip Report - Old Cairo - Day 8.
  9. Holyland Trip - Gotchas to avoid.  
  10. Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites
Last Updated: 12/2012.

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