The Sea of Galilee

Last week, we got a glimpse of the Sea of Galilee after laughing about politics and politicians. It was a great release from the tension of the campaign here. But it was a rather hazy day, and I didn’t photograph much. Then, after getting some comments about the place, I thought it’d be nice to share some more pictures and subjective impressions of this beloved and essential site.

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In Hebrew, we call this sea, Kineret, which refers to the violin or the biblical harp. There are those who believe it got its name because of a similarity in shape to the body of a violin or a harp. But in fact, there is no recognizable similarity. On the other hand, the talmud tells us that the name was given because its fruits are as sweet as the sound of a violin. Around the beginning of the common era, it was called Tiberias Lake, after the city Tiberias, which sits on the western edge of the sea, and is one of our four holy cities. The city of Tiberias was a center of the Jewish population from the middle ages until the 19th century. Though the name of the town is usually attributed to the Roman Emperor Tiberius, another opinion is found in our literature, where it is referred to as the navel of the country. In Hebrew, ‘tabur’ means navel. It was also the site where the sanhedrin (our ancient parliament) was convened in its last stages.

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The sea and the town of Tiberias are a little more than 200 meters below sea level. So the weather is usually warm there, and the air is rich in oxygen. There are also a number of natural mineral-water pools in the area that were considered health resorts even in ancient times, and still attract tourists to this day. In another country, it probably wouldn’t be called a sea at all. I have seen bodies of water that were larger, which were called lakes in other lands. But we have a little country, and a tendency to call hills mountains, and to think of lakes as seas. In the past hundred years, as our people worked to rebuild our ancient homeland, this sweet water lake provided water for a large part of Israel. Today we have very efficient desalination plants which are contributing an ever growing supply of water.

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How well I remember my first visit to the Kineret many years ago, as a young man. I stayed in a hotel in Tiberias, on the west bank of the sea. I loved the people there. They were warm and open hearted, and seemed to have a simple approach to life. I was enchanted by the beauty of the locale, the many colored boats and the fish… the smells of those fish, and the sight of them linger in my mind to this day. Exotic music was heard from the open shops, some of them displaying their wares on the sidewalks in front. There were fishermen repairing their nets as they carried on conversations that could be overheard by the passers by. The city is home to the devoutly religious too, and attracts pilgrims of both the Jewish and Christian faiths, who come from afar to visit sacred places. And tourists as well, come to appreciate the sights and sounds, oblivious to the long history of the place.

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I remember once, hearing a strange singsong chanting, that was coming from behind the hotel where I was staying. Following the sound, I discovered a group of people who seemed from another world. They walked along slowly, as a group, singing as they went. For they had come on a group pilgrimage to visit the grave of Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher of the middle ages, who is considered one of the greatest torah scholars of all time. His grave was not far from the hotel. And this group of people had a presence, enveloped in innocence and holiness. Curious as to what they were doing, I approached them. Their dress and their manner… even their accent in speaking Hebrew were completely different from my own. But they embraced me without a second of hesitation, and begged me to walk along with them as they told me of the wonders of the great teacher’s mind.

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The pictures posted here are part of a series of photos that I took on the east bank of the Kineret. Together with some favorite students, and a few artist friends, we were on a nature trip to the Galilee. I got up early one morning, and watched the sun rise. And then, walking along the shore, I studied the meeting of water and earth.

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62 responses to “The Sea of Galilee

  1. The first photo is my favorite.

  2. Beautiful photographs and reflections, in every sense of the word, Shimon; thank you! I am especially captivated by the photo with the large tree trunk.

    How wonderful it must have been to learn more about Maimonides so very near the place his exceptional energy rests, and from such lovely people.

    Gentle Peace to your Sabbath, Shimon.

    • This lake of ours has been painted and photographed so many times, that it is hard to gaze out at it, without being reminded of previous images. One of these days, I hope to share some pictures too, of the other side… the western bank, where there are more people to be seen and more activity. But these are scenes that I’m very fond of, and they bring back some very beautiful memories. Thanks for the comment, Kitty.

  3. I love your stories of Israel, Shimon. Thank you for enriching my own life! My favorite shot is the one of the tree on the left side and the lake in the background. Very nice composition!

    I didn’t realize that Maimonides was buried in Israel as I had visited the place of his birth in Cordoba, Spain years ago. The Jewish quarter there is quite beautiful.

    • Maimonides had a great love of Israel, and wrote quite a bit about the country and his hopes for its future, though he lived most of his life away from it. Aside from his religious writing and philosophical works, he was also considered a very fine doctor. Much of his medical advice does not seem ‘old fashioned’ today, which is remarkable in itself. Very glad you enjoyed the post, Cathy.

  4. These are very beautiful photographs Shimon. I enjoyed reading about the Kineret. I’ve heard of the sea of course and understand its biblical significance. It was nice to put some real pictures to the pictures I had in my head. Thank you.

    • Thanks very much, Chillbrook. One of my biggest challenges, when trying to photograph there, is that I’ve often encountered haze or difficult weather. For some, the same weather just makes the pictures more interesting. But I sometimes have a vision of what I want to capture, and I’m not as flexible as I should be.

  5. Your photos and words evoke such an aura of everlasting peace and calm.

    • Thank you very much, Patti. It often seems to me that there is too much drama in my own life, and in my environment in general… and I find great peace soaking in nature. Sometimes, even in winter, I go to the sea shore and listen to the waves as they come in, and the sound brings me back to the perspective I enjoy, and the comfort that the world has to offer.

  6. It’s not even hot here… YET but with these lovely photos of yours I am suddenly thirsty and wish to be near water… perhaps with my feet dangling in. Also your mention of navel speaks to me as I am in my second trimester and expecting a baby girl. Whenever I read your blog I feel as you did when you walked with those pilgrims. Thank you.

    • So happy to hear of this oncoming wonderful event, Rusty. I send you my very best wishes. And yes, it’s inspiring to be next to a great body of water. There is life in it on so many different levels. Thank you for your comment, and for such good news.

  7. Thank you for not only the snapshots of the beauty but for the moments in history and your brief encounter with the group on the pilgrimage. Amazing.

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Judy. I have learned that there are very special and beautiful moments in every place and in every life. And when we share those memories, the moments are reborn in the sharing, having grown in the partnership of two or more heads coming together.

  8. Beautiful photos and reflections of a place stepped on history. Thanks so much Shimon

  9. Beautiful photographs dear Shimon, almost made me to feel the ambience of them… Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • It was a very pleasant weekend, Nia, and this week I do see signs of spring. We’ve also started summer time, so it’ll seem as if the days are longer. Thanks so much for the comment, and my best wishes to you too,

  10. An extremely beautiful (and learned) post. Just looking at the photographs is calming. 🙂

  11. Very pretty and tranquil: my kind of place.

  12. How lovely to learn more about the Kineret (that name appears in our New Testament too) and to see pictures that make it look so fresh and beautiful that they make my mouth water.

    • Yes, I know that the Kineret is very important in the New Testament, but since I read it in Hebrew, don’t always know how things are translated to other languages. Thank you very much for your comment, Gill.

  13. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos, and for sharing some of your thoughts and memories about the Sea of Galilee. I especially enjoyed the “studied the meeting of the water and earth”. Some of my most fulfilling memories are ones that began with waking up before the sun had time to cast its light across the tree tops. That magical time of silence.

    Specifically, oh so many years ago, I found myself sleeping in a tent near a lake, and awoke before any of the others, and had the entire expanse of silence all to myself. That memory that has nurtured and sustained me for many years, always filling my heart with a genuine serenity and peace. Thanks for reminding me of that moment.

    • I too, loved to camp out in a tent, and did so in many different places, different countries too. Each time, I had my familiar home with me, in a new and different environment. And it was such a pleasure. And I agree with you Nancy… those early morning hours are very special for so many aspects. The colors, the crispness of the air, the birds singing… and isn’t it just wonderful to get up and around while others are still enjoying their sleep… the quiet, and the peace. Thanks very much for your comment.

  14. Again, I’m confused. You mention Sea but there are trees at the edge and plants In the water. Then natural mineral pools, (usually indicating fresh but not potable water), and finally you have efficient desalinization plant. The pix are awe inspiring. What does it take to be a “Holy City”? I love a good mystery. So nice to read you again.

    • You’re right, Bob. I mentioned a number of things that weren’t really connected… except that they are relatively close to one another. The Sea of Galilee is a fresh water lake. And I was photographing the areas near the shore, enjoying the edge. The desalinization plants are near the Mediterranean sea, and not connected to this one at all, but they supply water to the arid parts of Israel. Not so long ago, water was piped down from the Sea of Galilee. The mineral pools are very near the Sea of Galilee, but unconnected. They get their water from independent springs. As for the holy cities, each one of them has a story. And it would take a long time to tell them. But basically, the holiness comes from a spiritual connection to the place, sometimes because of something that occurred there… sometimes repeatedly… and other times because of people who chose to be buried at the edge of the city. Stories, and more stories… there are always more… but they spell out the culture of the people.

  15. I felt a sense of tranquility as I viewed each photograph. No favorite; liked them all. You have a wonderful eye with the camera, Shimon. Enjoyed the history lesson and the recounting of your memories. As always, a pleasure to read your post. Thank you.

    • Photography is a wonderful craft, and the camera too is a fine instrument. On the internet, we see it mostly used in aspirations towards art. But it can be used like a pencil or a pen… for sketches and illustrations, for copying and many other uses too. I’ve used it for much of my life as a means to record a visual diary. Often my objective is not to find the most powerful image, but to remember my own feelings and thoughts at a particular place or time. Sometimes I’m so carried away by my feelings in a certain situation, that the photo taken helps me to reconsider what happened when reviewing it afterwards. Very glad you enjoyed these pictures, Myra. They bring memories back to me.

  16. What a beautiful post, Shimon. Absolutely wonderful.

  17. I love the peaceful feel of going along with you on this walk. The photos added to the simple and true beauty of the Kineret.

    • Very happy you enjoyed the walk. Wish I could be your guide in this beautiful place, Corina. You’ll hear from me soon about my experience with Harry. I want to share that with you too.

  18. Enjoyed the beautiful photographs of the sea and explanation of the names associated with it.

    • I know how much you enjoy getting to know the history of a place, Bev. And I’m glad it made sense to you. I often hesitate to write things that involve our language. Because when the language is unknown, it might be an annoyance hearing about it. Thanks.

  19. As I read this post I am taken with how different it is in tone and feel to the political madness that you have just experienced and we are right in the middle of.
    I am reminded that going back to the source….to Mother Nature, we find the answers to what can a life of fulfilment.
    I love your memories from another time…always good to tap into.

    Beautiful photographs….thank you as always for a beautiful post. Janet. xx

    • Oh Janet, it feels so good to be after all of that. Even when I didn’t want to hear about it anymore, there would be items in the news, and things we’d hear no matter where we’d go. You couldn’t escape the subject of politics. Now we’re back to normal living again, and it’s so much better. Wishing you peace and calm as it happens in your country. Very glad you liked the post. Best wishes always, xxx

  20. Oh…..what a beautiful, magical place, how I wish I was there in person. It feels special, and ancient, as though the water has taken on a life force and awareness of it’s own. I’m so happy it remains unspoilt too, especially as it receives so many visitors. I wonder about all the different wildlife that live and linger there too.
    Your experiences and descriptions bring this all to life for me, and of course those pictures are just beautiful. I absolutely LOVED this….You have, and continue to have such marvelous experiences, I love how open-minded and interesting you are…..I’m afraid I’m going to have to adopt you, IMMEDIATELY! xxx

    • Actually, I only realized after I had posted that I forgot to include a very important characteristic of this lake. It can be the essence of calm on certain days, but it can also be as stormy as the sea on others. Maybe that’s why we call it a sea. Large boats have gone down in those stormy waters on a number of occasions. It has personality. As for adoption, in my innocence, I thought it had already happened. I feel like we’re family, Dina. So glad you enjoyed the post. xxx

  21. As always, your pictures are beautiful, Shimon.
    They engender in me a strong urge to revisit the Kinneret.
    חג שמח!

    • Thank you very much, Shimona. It is always good to hear from you, and I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I would definitely advise a trip to the Kineret, as soon as possible. You know, every time we visit there, it’s a little different. Just don’t go on Pesach. There’s too many others who’ve had the same idea.
      חג שמח גם לך, לכל חבריך וקרוביך

  22. Another great post Shimon.

  23. Wonderful to travel with some favorite students and artist friends. I can just imagine how beautiful it is, watching the sun rise, then studied the meeting of water and earth. I love it, Mr. Shimon.

    • Yes, Amy, those are among the most powerful experiences I’ve had… when I’ve gone out to nature with students or friends. It adds so much to the adventure. And I have to tell you, that your wonderful picture of the birds is still with me… still in my head. I loved it so much!

      • I envy your experience. Now these days, people are connected through social media so much, especially the younger generation. I miss the experience of having fun with friends. Appreciate you letting me how much you enjoy the bird image. I was excited of posting it, that I kicked the “n” out of challenge.

  24. Yes, the name was so very familiar, a known place of my childhood and younger adulthood…never visited and only as a concept…probably never seen in photographs, I’m not sure. I especially enjoyed your narrative and the few glimpses you have given us of this sea-lake…thank you, Shimon.

    • You know, Scott, I knew that the Sea of Galilee was familiar to the Christian world, but only now I learned that many have heard of the Hebrew name, Kineret. Usually, I don’t expect people of other cultures to know anything about our language. But it turns out that there are some concepts and words that do fly across the borders like migratory birds. Thanks for your comment.

  25. As I looked at your photographs, I realized that I’ve had no image of Galilee in my mind. It’s been rather a blank space. I would hear the word “Galilee,” and think only of the songs or stories. One by one, your photos filled up that blank space with images of beauty, complexity, serenity.

    They’re also a reminder that the most interesting places and experiences in life often exist at the edges, where one world bumps up against another. Here, land and water touch, intermingle, and coexist. If only the same could be said of peoples and cultures.

    • Dear Linda, I agree with you completely, that the edges provide the most fertile backgrounds for learning, development, and hope. And believe that this is true among people and cultures too. Though my people suffered terribly during the exile from our homeland, we also learned and grew from our contacts with many different peoples throughout the world. Likewise, I have seen other examples of cooperation and great leaps in the meetings of culture through history. Unfortunately, cultures and nations suffer from the same flaws and limitations as we individuals do… and sometimes fear and jealousy get in the way of openness and growth. But always there is hope.

  26. Hag Sameah, Shimon. I hope you and yours have a meaningful and great feast of remembrance and deliverance. And may Elijah actually walk in to join you! And may the best child find the afikomen–and may you be generous with the reward!!!

    • My dear Lance, Thank you very much for your sweet blessing. It is my great good fortune to have many grandchildren, and on this holiday, watching them continue the traditions of generations brings happiness and hope. My best wishes to you and your loved ones on this occasion. May we all join in the celebration of the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophesy, and enjoy a world united in peace.

  27. I love your posts, you share so much beauty with your writing and your images.

  28. Lovely photos, Shimon, and enjoyable storytelling.

  29. So glad, I found you again, Shimon … have not forgotten … smiles … Love, cat.

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