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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

TIBERIAS AND THE SEA OF GALILEE--WE ARE STEEPED IN HISTORY

Everyone is excited about the last stop of the day on our Margaret Morse tour of Israel, Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. This famous body of water is fed by the Jordan River, and our wonderful guide David keeps teasing us about crossing the Jordan. Surprise! At the point we cross, we see barely a trickle, unfortunately partially due to a long, hot, dry season. Nevertheless, it IS a thrill to cross over Jordan which feeds the Sea of Galilee.

Tiberias, founded in 18 CE by the son of Herod, is today’s city by the sea, but it was important in ancient times too as a place of hot springs and temperate climate. Roman soldiers came to relax in the hot springs.  Even then a little R&R was important. Today, too, it is enjoyed as a winter vacation spot with its spas. This city on the western shore is one of four Jewish holy cities. It is the scene of many episodes in the life of Jesus, and it is also near the site of Israel’s first kibbutz. The Druze have also found a home nearby.

In 1986, an ancient fishing vessel was found on the northwestern shore. That vessel has been studied and recreated and was once exhibited at the kibbutz. Our guide David tells us that replicas have been made, and visiting Christians who often come to be baptized here board these ships to pray on the waters. In ancient times, fishing was an important industry, and one fish, the musht, is commonly known as “St. Peter’s Fish.”

Once again we are astounded by the small size of this country. The far shore of the Sea of Galilee is the Golan Heights, now controlled by Israel but once in Syria’s hands. I cannot help but think “safety.” Every view of the Golan Heights is a reminder of the important role these mountains play.

Sea of Galilee  Boat
The Golan Heights are soooo close
With our full touring morning of the Hagoshrim kibbutz and the Golan Heights, we arrive in Tiberias at lunchtime, and Margaret Morse has a wonderful surprise. Our delight, fortunately or unfortunately, echoes a Jewish stereotype, but we don’t care. There’s real laughter. There on the waterfront overlooking the Sea of Galilee toward the Golan Heights is The Pagoda, a marvelous Chinese restaurant. We sit in an open air pavilion covered by a pagoda-inspired roof designed by a Chinese architect.

Pagoda Chinese restaurant in Tiberias

Pagoda Chinese restaurant in Tiberias


No hummus here but a scrumptious Chinese feast served family style to our many tables. Here is our menu:

Wonton soup, chicken, egg roll
Fried rice and vegetables
Beef and vegetables
Sweet & sour chicken
Pineapple & banana rolled in chocolate & sesame seeds
Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry not-ice cream.

What is amazing to most of us is that the non-dairy products here are incredibly delicious. Whatever that chocolate, vanilla... was, it thrilled. Whatever we’ve been putting in our coffee is delicious. Who knew?

Did we enjoy lunch? You betcha!

From The Pagoda we head to the water and our waiting tour boat and our cruise on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is not what I picture a sea to be. It is long and narrow—13 miles long and 7 miles wide. It seems more like Greenwood Lake, NY or Lake George, NY. In fact, the sea’s modern name is Lake Kinneret. Our cruise is a pleasure cruise, a party cruise. Another “not in the brochure” plus. Margaret Morse Tours constantly surprises us. We have a dj, and the music is OUR MUSIC. It doesn’t take long before dancing feet are doing their thing. Well, honestly, a lot more women get up than men, but even Rob gets up to dance a few times with me.

Tour boat on the Sea of Galilee Tiberias

We also take the opportunity to take photographs as the sun is setting over this ancient city, and we pass public beaches and get a lovely overview of this place. We have to drive back to Hagoshrim and get ready for another day.

Tiberias at sunset

Tiberias at sunset

Tomorrow is always exciting.

Sea of Galilee at sunset

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