The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee at Twilight

The Sea of Galilee
"Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,

And all the air a solemn stillness holds...."
Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard, 1751.

The Sea of Galilee in northern Israel lies 210 m (about 650 ft) below sea-level and is part of the great Syrian-African Fault, the longest and deepest fault system in the world, stretching from Syria, in the north down through the entire length of the Jordan valley, the Dead Sea, the Gulf of Eilat, the Red Sea, the west Indian Ocean, on into east Africa.

Next to the name of the River Jordan itself the Sea of Galilee is one of the most emotive and evocative names known to Man and is inextricably bound up with, and an integral part of the Christian faith and the life and acts of Jesus.
Stretching in an arc round its north-west to north east coast - a distance of perhaps 35 km (about 22 miles), are some of the most well-known Christian sites intimately connected with Jesus and those who followed him: Magdala - the traditional birthplace of Mary Magdalene; The Mount of the Beatitudes; the Church of the Feeding of the Multitude; the Primacy of Peter; Capernaum; and last, but not least - Kursi, the traditional site of the casting out of the devil into the Gaderene swine. Not least among these sites is the ancient fishing village of Capernaum (Kfar Nahum, in the original Hebrew), the home of Simon called Peter. Here are the remains of a beautiful 3rd. Century limestone synagogue built onto the earlier foundations of a previous synagogue, one dating possibly from the time of Jesus. That being so who is to say that synagogue was not the synagogue into which Jesus went to pray and teach on the Sabbath?

"And (he) came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice...........And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her."  Luke IV: 31-33, 38:).

The remains of the synagogue at

Photo courtesy of Dr Carl Rasmussen Ph.D

Measuring about 26 km from north to south and about 9 km at its widest. 15 major streams, and hundreds of minor tributaries drain into the Kinneret (its Hebrew name). Its catchment area is about 2,735 sq. km. The Sea of Galilee is Israel's only major source of fresh water holding, ideally, 4,000,000,000 cu.m. of water. In recent years, due to a natural increase in industrial, domestic and agricultural use, exacerbated by a steadily decreasing annual precipitation, the level of the Sea of Galilee has been dropping and today is causing considerable concern among conservationists and other authorities.

In Israel the variation in rainfall is generally very marked from zone to zone - from the almost totally arid southern Negev near Eilat (approx. 12 mm a year) via Be'er Sheva in the northern Negev (approx. 120 mm), northwards via the coastal plain (450 approx.), to the northern border with Lebanon (1,000 mm or more).

My chart shows the annual precipitation for the Sea of Galilee region (Degania - a kibbutz at the southern extremity of the Sea), and you can see the great variations that took place over the years. Please note this year (2002/3) was particularly good, being superceded only twice in the last 55 years!
(The information used in creating this graph was kindly supplied by the Israel Meteorological Service, to whom I offer my grateful thanks).

Here you can compare the appearance of the sea, as photographed at one of the marinas adjacent to Tiberias before and after the rains:-

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