Between Christianity and Judaism around the Sea of Galilee

By Nili Hess Ashkenazi,Israel

This past Saturday we visited two religious sites- one Jewish and one Christian- and finished off with a hearty meal. We began our morning in the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Italian Franciscan monks built the chapel, as it stands today, in the 1930’s. According to the Christian faith, Jesus revealed himself to his apostles after his death, shared a meal with them, and gave Peter his Primacy in this place. The church- hall is small and simple; its main draw is a large projection of rock from the ground, on which according to tradition, Jesus had supped with the apostles. The rock is venerated as a Mensa Christi, or Table of Christ. The church is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and to the shore we went after exploring the chapel.

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the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

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the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

Many groups of pilgrims were present at the time, and were dipping their hands and feet in the water in baptism. We allowed the children to wade their feet in the water, and they enjoyed the coolness of it, and were excited by the many beautiful shells on the beach.

the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

After a prolonged period (the children requested “five more minutes” multiple times), we went to see the statue adjacent to the church, which portrays Jesus giving the primacy to Peter.

the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

We continued from the church to the Hamat Tiberias national park. The national park contains within it the remnants of the ancient city of Hammath, dating back to biblical days. It was united with the city of Tiberias in the 11th century. The most prominent archeological find there is the mosaic floor of the Hamat Tiberias Synagogue, which is dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries. In addition, the site features the Hammam Suleiman (Turkish baths) structure, which was built at the end of the 18th century, and was operational until the 1940’s. Furthermore, a hot water aqueduct and pool have been added to the park in recent years. The water comes from hot springs rich in minerals, making the city of Hammath renowned throughout its history. We began our visit in the Hammam Suleiman, located near the site entrance.

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

Hamam Suliman,Hamat Tiberius

After that, we continued up toward the synagogue. The children dipped their hands in the warm water of the aqueduct along the way, and we promised to allow them to dip their feet in the hot pool on our way back. We entered the structure containing the impressive mosaic floor, and Maayan quizzed the kids with riddles out of the “young rangers” booklet that we purchased at the park’s entrance (a “young rangers” booklet, containing games for kids regarding the relevant sites, is available for purchase at any of the national parks). The riddles refer to the mosaic depictions, the most impressive of which is a zodiac with the Sun god, Helios, in its center. Four women surround the zodiac, each symbolizing one of the seasons of nature.

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

Hamat Tiberius ancient Sinagogue

On our way back to the entrance we stopped at the hot pool as promised, and the children got to dip their feet and enjoy the hot water this time, unlike with the chilly waters of the Sea of Galilee.

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

Hamat Tiberius hot water pools

It was past noontime after the visit to Hamat Tiberias, and so we went to eat at “Tzel Ha’Tamar” restaurant, located at the entrance to Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov (Ihud). The restaurant has been there for years, and has a varied menu suited for the entire family, as well as fast and attentive service. We decided to have a dessert of chocolates manufactured at Galita Chocolate Farm, located on Kibbutz Deganya Bet.

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

Galita Chocolate Farm

The place offers excellent pralines and other chocolate confections, as well as chocolate- making workshops for the entire family (we participated in one of those workshops on our visit).

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