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Bible and beyond

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Tel Aviv is the financial capital of the modern Israel, but that didn’t happen till 1909. The roots come from the old city of Jaffa which has seen human habitation since 7500 BC. It is the oldest port to have been continuously inhabited in the world. The port city of Jaffa is full of Biblical history, it is said that the city came into existence right after the floods which Noah’s Ark survived and it was his son Japeth who built a settlement.

There are more Biblical references – Jonah’s journey, Tabitha’s restoration to life, and Peter’s conversion of Gentiles. St Peter’s Church, built in 1895 over a crusader’s fortress; Simon the Tanner’s House, Russian orthodox Church of Tabitha are what exist for travellers to discover. There are also remains from Egyptian civilization, an archaeological dig reveals a fortress built by the ‘Pharaoh of the Exodus’, Ramses II. A letter from 1440 BC was found which talks about the conquest of Jaffa by Pharaoh Thutmose II. It remained under Egyptian rule until approximately 800 BC. The sea is a reminder of King Hiram of Tyre who sent cedar logs for the Temple to Jaffa.

A plaque on the beach north of Jaffa honors the 157 American Christians from Jonesport, Maine, who landed here on the Nellie Chapin in September 1866, bringing the wood with them to build their houses. The story of the American Colony is told at one of the colony’s restored houses in Jaffa, the Maine Friendship House. The 116 ft high Statue of Faith by Dan Kafri offers a view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Sea of Galilee or Lake Kineret is Israel’s largest fresh water reservoir, it is also the lowest freshwater lake on the planet fed partly by underground springs and partly by the Jordan River. It is approximately 13 miles long and eight miles wide covering a total area of 64 sq miles and 141 ft deep. Both the names, unsurprisingly, have Biblical references, Sea of Galilee is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew while Kineret comes from the Old Testament. Above the eastern and western shores are the Galilee mountains and the foothills of the Golan, while to the north there is the Beit Tsida valley, and to the south is the Jordan estuary, which flows further south towards the desert regions. This diverse terrains make the beaches around the lake different. Some have soft sands while others are rocky; some beaches are narrow while others are very wide. Inevitably, water sports are a big hit with boating, canoeing, etc. Thanks to the unique natural terrain beyond the beaches are some great starts to nature tours into Jordan Park, Beit Tsida Nature Reserve, Khamat Gader and Naharayim. The lower Golan Heights is full of streams, historic sites and nature reserves.

In 2003, a stone structure was discovered below the waters of lake Kineret. What makes this discovery extrordinary is the fact is that it weighs estimated 60,000 tons, is 10 mtrs high and has a diameter of 70 mtrs. What is baffling to archaeologists is the fact that there are Basalt boulders which have stacked on top of each other giving it a burial site like stature. Coming back to history and stories from the Bible, Jesus is said to have lived, preached and performed miracles in and around the regions of Lake Kineret. The story of Him walking on water and the multiplication of loaves and fish is said to have happened here. There is a Jesus Trail, which is a 65-kilometre hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel which connects important sites from the life of Jesus as well as other historical and religious sites. The hike starts from Nazareth, passes through the region of Sea of Galilee and ends at Capernaum.

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