The Garden of Gethsemane


Gethsemane

Coordinates: 31°46′46″N 35°14′25″E / 31.779402°N 35.240197°E / 31.779402; 35.240197

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane, 1914

Gethsemane (Greek ΓεΘσημανἰ, Gethsēmani Hebrew:גת שמנים, Aramaic:גת שמני, Gath-Šmânê, Assyrian ܓܕܣܡܢ, Gat Šmānê, lit. “oil press”) is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.

Etymology

Gethsemane appears in the Greek of the Gospel of Matthew[1] and the Gospel of Mark[2] as Γεθσημαν (Gethsēmani). The name is derived from the Assyrian ܓܕܣܡܢ (Gaṯ-Šmānê), meaning “oil press”.[3] Matthew (26:36)and Mark (14:32) call it χωρον (18:1), a place or estate. The Gospel of John says Jesus entered a garden (κπος) with his disciples.[4]

Location

  This section appears to contradict itself. Please see its talk page for more information. (September 2010)

While tradition locates Gethsemane on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, the exact spot remains unknown. According to the New Testament it was a place that Jesus and his disciples customarily visited, which allowed Judas to find him on the night of his arrest.[5] Overlooking the garden is the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony, built on the site of a church destroyed by the Sassanids in 614, and a Crusader church destroyed in 1219. Nearby is the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene with its golden, onion-shaped domes (Byzantine/Russian style), built by Russian Tsar Alexander III in memory of his mother.

Pilgrimage site

Andrea Mantegna‘s Agony in the Garden, circa 1460, depicts Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane

According to Luke 22:43–44, Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane was so deep that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, Gethsemane is the garden where the Virgin Mary was buried and was assumed into heaven after her dormition on Mount Zion. The Garden of Gethsemane became a focal site for early Christian pilgrims. It was visited in 333 by the anonymous “Pilgrim of Bordeaux”, whose Itinerarium Burdigalense is the earliest description left by a Christian traveler in the Holy Land. In his Onomasticon, Eusebius of Caesarea notes the site of Gethsemane located “at the foot of the Mount of Olives”, and he adds that “the faithful were accustomed to go there to pray”. Ancient olive trees growing in the garden are said to be 900 years old.[6]

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Bethlehem


Bethlehem

Bethlehem

A neighborhood in Bethlehem

Municipal Seal of Bethlehem
   
 

Bethlehem

Arabic بيت لحم
Name meaning house of meat (Arabic); house of bread (Hebrew)
Governorate Bethlehem
Government City (from 1995)
Also spelled Beit Lahm[1] (officially)Bayt Lahm (unofficially)
Coordinates 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°E / 31.70306; 35.19556Coordinates: 31°42′11″N 35°11′44″E / 31.70306°N 35.19556°E / 31.70306; 35.19556
Population 25,266[2] (2007)
Head of Municipality Victor Batarseh[3]
Website www.bethlehem-city.org

Bethlehem (Arabic: بَيْتِ لَحْمٍ‎, Bayt Laḥm (help·info), lit “House of Meat”; Hebrew: בֵּית לֶחֶם‎, Beit Lehem, lit “House of Bread;” Greek: Βηθλεέμ Bethleém) is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, approximately 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people.[4][5] It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism.[6][7] The Hebrew Bible identifies Beit Lehem as the city David was from and the location where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, though the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration.

The city was sacked by the Samaritans in 529 AD, during their revolt, but was rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city’s religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one. The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city’s walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.[8]

The British wrested control of the city from the Ottomans during World War I and it was to be included in an international zone under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Jordan annexed the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Since 1995, Bethlehem has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority.[8]

Bethlehem has a Muslim majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities. The Bethlehem agglomeration includes the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, as well as the refugee camps of ‘Aida and Azza. Bethlehem’s chief economic sector is tourism which peaks during the Christmas season when Christian pilgrims throng to the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem has over thirty hotels and three hundred handicraft work shops.[9] Rachel’s Tomb, an important Jewish holy site, is located at the entrance of Bethlehem.

History

The first historical reference to the town appears in the Amarna Letters (c. 1400 BC) when the King of Jerusalem appeals to his Lord, the King of Egypt, for help in retaking “Bit-Lahmi” in the wake of disturbances by the Apiru.[10] Since the Jews and Arabs had not yet arrived in the area it is thought that the similarity of this name to its modern forms inidicates that this was a settlement of Canaanites who shared a Semitic cultural and linguistic heritage with the later arrivals.[11]

Biblical era

Bethlehem, located in the “hill country” of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath,[12] which means “fertile”, as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah.[13] It is also known as Beth-Lehem Judah,[14] and “a city of David”.[15] It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside” (Gen. 48:7). Rachel’s Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Bethlehem is the traditional birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel.[16] It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.[17]

Roman and Byzantine periods

View of Church of the Nativity in 1833, painting by M.N.Vorobiev

Between 132–135 the city was occupied by the Romans after its capture during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Its Jewish residents were expelled by the military orders of Hadrian.[18] While ruling Bethlehem, the Romans built a shrine to the mythical Greek cult figure Adonis on the site of the Nativity. A church was erected in 326, when Helena, the mother of the first Byzantine emperor Constantine, visited Bethlehem.[8]

During the Samaritan revolt of 529, Bethlehem was sacked and its walls and the Church of the Nativity destroyed, but they were soon rebuilt on the orders of the Emperor Justinian I. In 614, the Persian Sassanid Empire invaded Palestine and captured Bethlehem. A story recounted in later sources holds that they refrained from destroying the church on seeing the magi depicted in Persian clothing in a mosaic.[8]

Birthplace of Jesus

Further information: Church of the Nativity and Nativity of Jesus 

Silver star marking the place where Jesus was born according to Christian tradition

Two accounts in the New Testament describe Jesus as born in Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Luke,[15] Jesus‘ parents lived in Nazareth but traveled to Bethlehem for the census of AD 6, and Jesus was born there before the family returned to Nazareth.

The Gospel of Matthew account implies that the family already lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, and later moved to Nazareth.[19][20] Matthew reports that Herod the Great, told that a ‘King of the Jews’ has been born in Bethlehem, ordered the killing of all the children aged two and under in the town and surrounding areas. Jesus’ earthly father Joseph is warned of this in a dream, and the family escapes this fate by fleeing to Egypt and returning only after Herod has died. But being warned in another dream not to return to Judea, Joseph withdraws the family to Galilee, and goes to live in Nazareth.

Early Christians interpreted a verse in the Book of Micah[21] as a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem.[22] Many modern scholars question whether Jesus was really born in Bethlehem, and suggest that the different Gospel accounts were invented to present the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy and imply a connection to the lineage of King David.[23][24][25][26] The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John do not include a nativity narrative or any hint that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and refer to him only as being from Nazareth.[27] In a 2005 article in Archaeology magazine, archaeologist Aviram Oshri pointed to the absence of evidence of settlement of the area at the time when Jesus was born, and postulates that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Galilee.[28] Opposing him, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor argues for the traditional position.[29]

The antiquity of the tradition of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, who stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (c. 155–161) that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town.[30] Origen of Alexandria, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus.[31] This cave was possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz.[32]

Islamic rule and the Crusades

The Mosque of Omar (Umar) was built in 1860 to commemorate the Caliph Umar‘s visit to Bethlehem upon its capture by the Muslims. It is Bethlehem’s only mosque.

In 637, shortly after Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim armies, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second Caliph Bethlehem and promised that the Church of the Nativity would be preserved for Christian use.[8] A mosque dedicated to Umar was built upon the place in the city where he prayed, next to the church.[33] Bethlehem then passed from the control of the Islamic caliphates of the Ummayads in the 8th century, then the Abbasids in the 9th century. Persian geographer recorded in the mid-9th century that a well preserved and much venerated church existed in the town. In 985, Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi visited Bethlehem, and referred to its church as the “Basilica of Constantine, the equal of which does not exist anywhere in the country-round.”[34] In 1009, during the reign of the sixth Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the Church of the Nativity was ordered to be demolished, but was spared by local Muslims, because they had been permitted to worship in the structure’s south transept.[35]

In 1099, Bethlehem was captured by the Crusaders, who fortified it and built a new monastery and cloister on the north side of the Church of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox clergy were removed from their Sees and replaced with Latin clerics. Up until that point the official Christian presence in the region was Greek Orthodox. On Christmas Day 1100, Baldwin I, first king of the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem, was crowned in Bethlehem, and that year a Latin episcopate was also established in the town.[8]

A painting of Bethlehem, 1882

In 1187, Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria who led the Muslim Ayyubids, captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders. The Latin clerics were forced to leave, allowing the Greek Orthodox clergy to return. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. However, Bethlehem suffered from the loss of the pilgrim trade, as there was a sharp decrease of European pilgrims.[8]

William IV, Count of Nevers had promised the Christian bishops of Bethlehem that if Bethlehem should fall under Muslim control, he would welcome them in the small town of Clamecy in present-day Burgundy, France. As such, The Bishop of Bethlehem duly took up residence in the hospital of Panthenor, Clamecy in 1223. Clamecy remained the continuous ‘in partibus infidelium‘ seat of the Bishopric of Bethlehem for almost 600 years, until the French Revolution in 1789.[36]

Bethlehem—along with Jerusalem, Nazareth and Sidon—was briefly ceded to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem by a treaty between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229, in return for a ten-year truce between the Ayyubids and the Crusaders. The treaty expired in 1239 and Bethlehem was recaptured by the Muslims in 1244.[37]

In 1250, with the coming to power of the Mamluks under Rukn al-Din Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined; the clergies left the city, and in 1263 the town walls were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to Bethlehem the following century, establishing themselves in the monastery adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity. The Greek Orthodox were given control of the basilica and shared control of the Milk Grotto with the Latins and the Armenians.[8]

Ottoman and Egyptian era

A street in Bethlehem, 1880

View of Bethlehem, 1898

From 1517, during the years of Ottoman control, custody of the Basilica was bitterly disputed between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.[8] By the end of the 16th century, Bethelem had become one of the largest villages in the District of Jerusalem, and was subdivided into seven quarters.[38] The Basbus family served as the heads of Bethlehem among other leaders during this period.[39]

Bethlehem paid taxes on wheat, barley, and grapes. The Muslims and Christians were organized into separate communities, each having its own leader; five leaders represented the village in the mid-16th century, three of whom were Muslims. Ottoman tax records suggest that the Christian population was slightly more prosperous or grew more grain as opposed to grapes, the former being a more valuable commodity.[40]

From 1831 to 1841, Palestine was under the rule Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt. During this period, the town suffered an earthquake as well as the destruction of the Muslim quarter in 1834 by Egyptian troops, apparently as a reprisal for the murder of a favored loyalist of Ibrahim Pasha.[41] In 1841, Bethlehem came under Ottoman rule once more and remained so until the end of the World War I. Under the Ottomans, Bethlehem’s inhabitants faced unemployment, compulsory military service and heavy taxes, resulting in mass emigration particularly to South America.[8] An American missionary in the 1850s reports a population of under 4,000, ‘nearly all of them belong to the Greek Church.’ He also comments that ‘there is a fatal lack of water’ and hence it could never become a large town.[42]

Twentieth century

Bethlehem was administered by the British Mandate from 1920 until 1948.[43] In the United Nations General Assembly‘s 1947 resolution to partition Palestine, Bethlehem was included in the special international enclave of Jerusalem to be administered by the United Nations.[44]

Jordan annexed the city during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[45] Many refugees from areas captured by Israeli forces in 1947–48 fled to the Bethlehem area, primarily settling in the what became the official refugee camps of ‘Azza (Beit Jibrin) and ‘Aida in the north and Dheisheh in the south.[46] The influx of refugees significantly transformed Bethlehem’s Christian majority into a Muslim one.[47]

Jordan retained control of the city until the Six-Day War in 1967, when Bethlehem was occupied by Israel, along with the rest of the West Bank. On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem,[48] and three days later the city came under the complete administration and military control of the Palestinian National Authority in conformance with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1995.[49]

Second Intifada

Bethlehem Catholic Church

During the Second Palestinian Intifada, which began in 2000-01, Bethlehem’s infrastructure and tourism industry were severely damaged.[50][51] In 2002, it was a primary combat zone in Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).[52]

During the operation, the IDF besieged the Church of the Nativity, where about 200 Palestinian militants took the Church hostage. The siege lasted for 39 days and nine militants and the church’s bellringer were killed. It ended with an agreement to exile 13 of the wanted militants to various European nations and Mauritania.

Geography

A map indicating Bethlehem’s location

Bethlehem is located at 31°43′0″N 35°12′0″E / 31.716667°N 35.2°E / 31.716667; 35.2 Bethlehem stands at an elevation of about 775 meters (2,543 ft) above sea level, 30 meters (98 ft) higher than nearby Jerusalem.[53] Bethlehem is situated on the southern portion in the Judean Mountains.

The city is located 73 kilometers (45 mi) northeast of Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea, 75 kilometers (47 mi) west of Amman, Jordan, 59 kilometers (37 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv, Israel and 10 kilometers (6 mi) south of Jerusalem.[54] Nearby cities and towns include Beit Safafa and Jerusalem to the north, Beit Jala to the northwest, Husan to the west, al-Khadr and Artas to the southwest, and Beit Sahour to the east. Beit Jala and the latter form an agglomeration with Bethlehem and the Aida and Azza refugee camps are located within the city limits.[55]

Old city

In the center of Bethlehem is its old city. The old city consists of eight quarters, laid out in a mosaic style, forming the area around the Manger Square. The quarters include the Christian al-Najajreh, al-Farahiyeh, al-Anatreh, al-Tarajmeh, al-Qawawsa and Hreizat quarters and al-Fawaghreh — the only Muslim quarter.[56] Most of the Christian quarters are named after the Arab Ghassanid clans that settled there.[57] Al-Qawawsa Quarter was formed by Arab Christian emigrants from the nearby town of Tuqu’ in the 18th century.[58] There is also a Syriac quarter outside of the old city,[56] whose inhabitants originate from Midyat and Ma’asarte in Turkey.[59] The total population of the old city is about 5,000.[56]

Climate

Bethlehem has a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Winter temperatures (mid-December to mid-March) can be cold and rainy. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 13 degree Celsius (33–55 °F). From May through September, the weather is warm and sunny. August is the hottest month, with a high of 27 degrees Celsius (81 °F). Bethlehem receives an average of 700 millimeters (27.6 in) of rainfall annually, 70% between November and January.[60]

Bethlehem’s average annual relative humidity is 60% and reaches its highest rates between January and February. Humidity levels are at their lowest in May. Night dew may occur in up to 180 days per year. The city is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea breeze that occurs around mid-day. However, Bethlehem is affected also by annual waves of hot, dry, sandy and dust Khamaseen winds from the Arabian Desert, during April, May and mid-June.[60]

Demographics

Population

Year Population
1867 3,000-4,000[61]
1945 8,820[62]
1961 22,450
1983 16,300[63]
1997 21,930[64]
2004 (Projected) 28,010[1]
2006 (Projected) 29,930[1]
2007 25,266[64]

In the PCBS’s 1997 census, the city had a population of 21,670, including a total of 6,570 refugees, accounting for 30.3% of the city’s population.[64][65] In 1997, the age distribution of Bethlehem’s inhabitants was 27.4% under the age of 10, 20% from 10 to 19, 17.3% from 20-29, 17.7% from 30 to 44, 12.1% from 45-64 and 5.3% above the age of 65. There were 11,079 males and 10,594 females.[64]

According to a PCBS estimate, Bethlehem’s population was 29,930 in mid 2006.[1] The 2007 PCBS census, however, revealed a population of 25,266, of which 12,753 were males and 12,513 were females. There were 6,709 housing units, of which 5,211 were households. The average household consisted of 4.8 family members.[2]

According to Ottoman tax records, Christians made up roughly 60% of the population in the early 16th century, while the Christian and Muslim population became equal in the mid-16th century. There were no Muslim inhabitants by the end of the century, with a recorded population of 287 adult male tax-payers. Christians, like all non-Muslims throughout the Ottoman Empire, were required to pay the jizya tax.[38] In 1867 an American visitor describes the town as having a population of 3,000 to 4,000; of whom about 100 were Protestants, 300 were Muslims and “the remainder belonging to the Latin and Greek Churches with a few Armenians”.[61]

In 1948, the religious makeup of the city was 85% Christian, mostly of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations,[66] and 13% Sunni Muslim. By 2005, the proportion of Christian residents had decreased dramatically, to about 20%.[67] The only mosque in the Old City is the Mosque of Omar, located in the Manger Square.[33]

Christian population

See also: Palestinian Christian 

Four Bethlehem Christian women, 1911

The majority of Bethlehem’s Christian inhabitants claim ancestry from Arab Christian clans from the Arabian Peninsula, including the city’s two largest: al-Farahiyya and an-Najajreh. The former claims to have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemen to the Wadi Musa area in present-day Jordan and an-Najajreh descend from the Arabs of Najran in the southern Hejaz. Another Bethlehem clan, al-Anantreh, also trace their ancestry to the Arabian Peninsula.[68]

The percentage of Christians in Bethlehem has been steadily falling, primarily due to continuous emigration. The lower birth rate of Christians than Muslims also accounts for some of the decline. In 1947, Christians made up 75% of the population, but by 1998 this figure had declined to 23%.[66] The current mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh told the Voice of America that, “due to the stress, either physical or psychological, and the bad economic situation, many people are emigrating, either Christians or Muslims, but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority.”[69]

Palestinian Authority rule following the Interim Agreements is officially committed to equality for Bethlehem area Christians, although there have been a few incidents of violence against them by the Preventive Security Service and militant factions.[70]

The outbreak of the Second Intifada and the resultant decrease in tourism has also affected the Christian minority, leaving many economically stricken as they are the owners of many Bethlehem hotels and services that cater to foreign tourists.[71] A statistical analysis of why Christians are leaving the area blamed the lack of economic and educational opportunities, especially due to the Christians’ middle-class status and higher education.[72] Since the Second Intifada, 10% of the Christian population have left the city.[69]

A 2006 poll of Bethlehem’s Christians conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue, found that 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian National Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli travel restrictions in the area.[73]

The Hamas government’s official position has been to support the city’s Christian population, though the party at times has been criticized by some anonymous residents for increasing the Islamic presence in the city by, for example, activating the call to prayer at a previously unused local mosque in a Christian neighborhood. According to the Jerusalem Post, under Hamas, the Christian population faces a lack of law and order which has left it susceptible to land theft by local mafia who take advantage of ineffective courts and the perception that the Christian population is less likely to stand up for itself.[74][75][76]

Economy

Central Bethlehem

Shopping and industry

Shopping is a major sector in Bethlehem, especially during the Christmas season. The city’s main streets and old markets are lined with shops selling handicrafts, Middle Eastern spices, jewelry and oriental sweets such as baklawa.[77]

The tradition of making handicrafts in the city dates back to its founding. Numerous shops in Bethlehem sell olive wood carvings — for which the city is renowned — made from the local olive groves.[78] The carvings are the main product purchased by tourists visiting Bethlehem.[79] Religious handicrafts are also a major industry in Bethlehem, and some products include ornaments handmade from mother-of-pearl, as well as olive wood statues, boxes, and crosses.[78] The art of creating mother-of-pearl handicrafts was introduced to Bethlehem by Franciscan friars from Damascus during the 14th century.[79] Stone and marble-cutting, textiles, furniture and furnishings are other prevalent industries. Bethlehem also produces paints, plastics, synthetic rubber, pharmaceuticals, construction materials and food products, mainly pasta and confectionery.[80]

Bethlehem has a wine-producing company, Cremisan Wine, founded in 1885, that currently exports wine to several countries. The wine is produced by monks in the Monastery of Cremisan, and the majority of the grapes are harvested from the al-Khader area. The monastery’s wine production is around 700,000 liters per year.[81]

Tourism

The Church of the Nativity

Tourism is Bethlehem’s primary industry and unlike other Palestinian localities before 2000, the majority of the working residents did not work in Israel.[50] Over 25% of the working population was employed directly or indirectly in the industry.[80] Tourism accounts for approximately 65% of the city’s economy and 11% of the Palestinian National Authority.[82]

The Church of the Nativity is one of Bethlehem’s major tourist attractions and a magnet for Christian pilgrims. It stands in the center of the city — a part of the Manger Square — over a grotto or cave called the Holy Crypt, where Jesus supposedly was born. Nearby is the Milk Grotto where the Holy Family took refuge on their Flight to Egypt and next door is the cave where St. Jerome spent thirty years translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Latin.[8]

There are over thirty hotels in Bethlehem.[9] Jacir Palace, built in 1910 near the church, is one of Bethlehem’s most successful hotels and its oldest. It was closed down in 2000 due to the violence of the Second Intifada, but reopened in 2005.[83]

Economic conference

Main article: Palestine Investment Conference 

Bethlehem hosted the largest ever economic conference in the Palestinian territories on May 21, 2008. It was initiated by Palestinian Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad to convince over 1,000 businessmen, bankers and government officials from throughout the Middle East to invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although Fayyad admitted the territories were “far from the perfect business environment”, being directly linked with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, 1.4 billion US dollars was secured for business investments in the Palestinian territories.[84]

Culture

Embroidery

See also: Palestinian costumes 

———-

A woman in Bethlehem. Her headdress and short jacket are typical of the Bethlehem area.

Before the establishment of Israel as a state, Bethlehem costumes and embroidery were popular in villages throughout the Judaean Hills and the coastal plain. The women embroiderers of Bethlehem and the neighboring villages of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour were known to be professional producers of wedding costumes.[85] Bethlehem was a center for embroidery producing a “strong overall effect of colors and metallic brilliance.”[86]

Less formal dresses in Bethlehem were generally made of indigo fabric and a sleeveless coat (bisht), made from locally woven wool, was worn over top. Dresses for special occasions were made of striped silk with winged sleeves and the short taqsireh jacket, known throughout Palestinian as the Bethlehem jacket, was worn over it. The taqsireh was made of velvet or broadcloth, usually with heavy embroidery.[85]

Bethlehem work was unique in its use of couched gold or silver cord, or silk cord onto the silk, wool, felt or velvet used for the garment, to create stylized floral patterns with free or rounded lines. This technique was used for “royal” wedding dresses (thob malak), taqsirehs and the shatwehs worn by married women. It has been traced by some to Byzantium, and by others to the more formal costumes of the Ottoman Empire’s elite. As Bethlehem was a Christian village, local women were also exposed to the detailing on church vestments with their heavy embroidery and silver brocade.[85]

Mother-of-Pearl carving

Craftsmen working with mother-of-pearl, early 20th century

Main article: Mother-of-Pearl carving in Bethlehem 

The art of mother-of-pearl carving has been a Bethlehem tradition since the 14th century when it was introduced to the city by Franciscan friars from Damascus.[87] Bethlehem’s position as an important Christian city has for centuries attracted a constant stream of pilgrims. This generated much local work and income, also for women, including making mother-of-pearl souvenirs.[88] It was noted by Richard Pococke, who travelled there in 1727.[89]

Present day products include crosses, earrings, brooches,[87] maps of Palestine,[90] and picture frames.[91]

Cultural centers and museums

Catholic procession on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, 2006

Bethlehem is home to the Palestinian Heritage Center, established in 1991. The center aims to preserve and promote Palestinian embroidery, art and folklore.[92] The International Center of Bethlehem is another cultural center that concentrates primarily on the culture of Bethlehem. It provides language and guide training, woman’s studies and arts and crafts displays, and training.[7]

A branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music is located in Bethlehem and has about 500 students. Its primary goals are to teach children music, train teachers for other schools, sponsor music research, and the study of Palestinian folklore music.[93]

Bethlehem has four museums located within its municipal borders. The Crib of the Nativity Theatre and Museum offers visitors 31 3D models depicting the significant stages of the life of Jesus. Its theater presents a 20-minute animated show. The Badd Giacaman Museum, located in the Old City of Bethlehem, dates back to the 18th century and is primarily dedicated to the history and process of olive oil production.[7]

Baituna al-Talhami Museum, established in 1972, contains displays of the culture of Bethlehem’s inhabitants.[7] The International Museum of Nativity was designed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the purpose of showing works of “high artistic quality in an evocative atmosphere”.[7]

Festivals

Christmas pilgrims, 1890

Christmas rites are held in Bethlehem on three different dates: December 25 is the traditional date by the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, but Greek, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6 and Armenian Orthodox Christians on January 19. Most Christmas processions pass through Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity. Catholic services take place in St. Catherine’s Church and Protestants often hold services at Shepherds’ Fields.[94]

Bethlehem, like other Palestinian localities, participates in festivals related to saints and prophets that are attached to Palestinian folklore. One such festival is the annual Feast of Saint George (al-Khadr) on 5–6 May. During the celebrations, Greek Orthodox Christians from the city march in procession to the nearby town of al-Khader to baptize newborns in the waters around the Monastery of St. George and sacrifice a sheep in ritual.[95] The Feast of St. Elijah is commemorated by a procession to Mar Elias, a Greek Orthodox monastery north of Bethlehem.

Education :

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in 1997, approximately 84% of Bethlehem’s population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city’s population, 10,414 were enrolled in schools (4,015 in primary school, 3,578 in secondary and 2,821 in high school). About 14.1% of high school students received diplomas.[100] There were 135 schools in the Bethlehem Governorate in 2006; 100 run the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, seven by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and 28 were private.[101]

Bethlehem is home to Bethlehem University, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faiths. Bethlehem University is the first university established in the West Bank, and can trace its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools throughout Palestine and Egypt.[102]

Transportation

A street in Bethlehem lined with taxis

Services

Bethlehem has three bus stations owned by private companies which offer service to Jerusalem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Hebron, Nahalin, Battir, al-Khader, al-Ubeidiya and Beit Fajjar. There are two taxi stations that make trips to Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, Jerusalem, Tuqu’ and Herodium. There are also two car rental departments: Murad and ‘Orabi. Buses and taxis with West Bank licenses are not allowed to enter Israel, including Jerusalem, without a permit.[103]

Tabgha – Traditional Site of The Miracle of Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes


Tabgha

Tabgha in 1903

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Church of the Multiplication

Church courtyard with olive tree.

Tabgha (Arabic: الطابغة‎, al-Tabigha; Hebrew: עין שבע‎, Ein Sheva) is an area situated on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is the traditional site of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-46) and the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus (John 21:1-24) in Christianity. Until 1948, it was the site of an Arab village.

The site’s name is derived from the Greek name Heptapegon (“seven springs”). St. Jerome referred to Tabgha as “the solitude” (=eremos).

In 1596, Al-Tabigha formed part of the Ottoman Empire, a village in the nahiya (subdistrict) of Jira under the liwa’ (“district”) of Safad, with a population of 44. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat and barley, as well as on goats, beehives and orchards.[1]

Church of the Multiplication

Main article: Church of the Multiplication

The earliest building at Tabgha was a small chapel built in the 4th century A.D. This was probably the shrine described by the pilgrim Egeria at the end of the 4th century:

Mosaic of fish and bread on the church floor.

“In the same place (not far from Capernaum) facing the Sea of Galilee is a well watered land in which lush grasses grow, with numerous trees and palms. Nearby are seven springs which provide abundant water. In this fruitful garden Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.”[2]

The mosaic of the fish and loaves is laid next to a large rock, which has caused some New Testament scholars to speculate that the builders of the original church believed that Jesus stood on this rock when he blessed the fish and loaves just before the feeding of the crowd who had come to hear him.

Interior of the church.

The large monastery and a church were built in the fifth century. While some date the destruction of the site to the time of the Arab conquest, the church was most likely destroyed in 614 during the Persian invasion, for already in AD 670, Bishop Arculf had reported that only columns from the church remained.

In 1932, after nearly 1300 years of “solitude”, two German archaeologists (Mader and Schneider) uncovered a number of the Byzantine church’s walls and mosaics.

In 1981, after further excavations, the church was finally restored by German Benedictines to its Byzantine form, incorporating portions of the original mosaics.

Today, the church and surrounding land are property of the German Association of the Holy Land whose head is the Archbishop of Cologne. The site is further maintained by Benedictine monks from the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey, also known as Dormition Church, which is located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Church of the Primacy of St. Peter


Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

Exterior View

Basic information
Location Tabgha, Israel
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Leadership Franciscan Order
Architectural description
Year completed 1933

The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha, Israel, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It commemorates Jesusreinstatement of Peter as chief among the Apostles.

History

The modern structure was built in 1933 and incorporates parts of an earlier 4th century church. At the base of its walls, opposite the main altar, foundations of the 4th century church are visible. In the 9th century, the church was referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus’ preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish. Also first mentioned in the year 808 are the “Twelve Thrones”, a series of heart shaped stones, which were placed along the shore to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. The church survived longer than any other in the area, finally being destroyed in 1263.[1] The present Franciscan chapel was built on the site in 1933.

Mensa Christi

The church contains a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar which is venerated as a “Mensa Christi”, Latin for table of Christ. According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to “Feed my sheep” after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. (John 21:1-24) It is disputed whether this table, or the one enshrined at the nearby Church of the Multiplication, is the one mentioned by the pilgrim Egeria in her narrative of the Holy Land circa 380. There is also another table of Christ enshrined at the Mensa Christi Church in Nazareth.

Mount of Beatitudes


Mount of Beatitudes

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Mount of Beatitudes, seen from Capernaum

Roman Catholic chapel at Mount of Beatitudes

Mosaic floor beside the church

The Mount of Beatitudes refers to the hill in northern Israel where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

Location

The traditional location for the Mount of Beatitudes is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret (Ginosar). The actual location of the Sermon on the Mount is not certain, but the present site (also known as Mount Eremos) has been commemorated for more than 1600 years. The site is very near Tabgha. Other suggested locations have included the nearby Mount Arbel, or even the Horns of Hattin.

Israel Pictures 150

Churches at the site

A Byzantine church was erected near the current site in the 4th century, and it was used until the 7th century. Remains of a cistern and a monastery are still visible. The current Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel was built in 1938.

Other

Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass at this site in March 2000. The Jesus Trail pilgrimage route connects the Mount to other sites from the life of Jesus.

Vasco Nasorri is the italian artist who realised the mosaic installed in the floor in front of the Church in 1984

References

Coordinates: 32°52′56.04″N 35°33′18.61″E / 32.8822333°N 35.5551694°E / 32.8822333; 35.5551694

Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_of_Beatitudes

Cana is a Galilean Town 5 miles Northeast of Nazareth


Cana (modern name Kafr Kanna; also known as Khirbet Cana) is a Galilean town five miles northeast of Nazareth. Its population of 8,500 includes both Muslims and Christians.

Long revered as the site of Jesus’ first miracle or turning water into wine at a wedding, Kafr Kanna has good historical support for its authenticity as ancient Cana.

In the Bible

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.””Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:1-11)

Authenticity

The location of the Cana visited by Jesus is disputed and not known for certain. Kafr Kanna is the most traditional site and has the following factors in favor of its authenticity:

  1. It is located on the main road between two important cities in the region (Sepphoris and Tiberias) and is not far from Nazareth.
  2. The ruins on the site indicate the presence of a town in the time of Jesus (they span the Persian to Byzantine periods)
  3. The site has no running spring water, so in ancient times water would have had to be brought from cisterns or from the valley below, and stored in stone jars such as those mentioned in the miracle story.
  4. Christian pilgrims have revered this site as the place of Jesus’ first miracle from an early date. Ancient graffiti can be seen on one of the grottoes.

However, recent excavations on a hill just north of Nazareth have uncovered ruins of a Jewish village from the 1st century AD. The excavators think the biblical Cana could be there instead of at this site 1 km to the east.

History

History records that a church was built in Cana by Empress Helena (mother of Constantine) in the 4th century, and this was identified with the remains of a large building found by travellers to Kafr Kanna in the 17th century.

Recent excavations have uncovered ruins of houses from the 1st-4th centuries AD, of a 5th-century atrium with portico, a Christian funerary building from the 5th or 6th century, and a medieval building.

The land at Kafr Kanna was sold by the lord of Sidon to the Knights Hospitallers in 1254. The Franciscans became established here in 1641 and began building the present church over an older church in 1879. It was consecrated in 1883.

What to See

The Franciscan Wedding Church at Cana is small and fronted by a courtyard. The facade has angel figures and is flanked by two bell towers and over an arcaded narthex.

Inside, the church has two levels. The upper church has a chapel surmounted by a simple dome. In the nave just before the stairs is a fragment of a Byzantine mosaic dating from the 5th or 6th century and preserves the name of the donor in Aramaic: “In memory of the pious Joseph, son of Tanhum, son of Bota and of his children who made this table, may it be for them a blessing, Amen.”

The lower church has a chapel and a small museum with artifacts from the site, including a winepress, a plastered cistern and vessels of various dates. One old jar is said to be one of the six jars used for the miracle.

Opposite the Franciscan church is a Greek Orthodox church, which is usually closed. Two 13th-century capitals are displayed near it.

The ruins of ancient Cana are on top of a small rounded hill rising 60m above the plain. They can be seen on the eastern slope (Byzantine and early Arabic), around the top slopes, and on the peak (mostly Greek and Roman).

The local shop in Kafr Kanna sells “wedding wine” and related souvenirs.

Getting There

The small village of Kafr Kanna is located in Lower Galilee, 7km northeast of Nazareth on Highway 154. To visit the church, park on the side of the highway and walk down the narrow village street to the Franciscan church on the right.

The ruins of the ancient village are atop a small hill and accessible only on foot or by SUV. The hike is strenuous, but rewarded with sweeping views and old ruins. The hill can be climbed from any direction.

Quick Facts

Site Information
Names: Cana; Cana of Galilee; Khirbet Cana (“ruins of Cana”); Kafr Kanna; Franciscan Wedding Church; Cana Catholic Wedding Church
Location: Israel
Faith: Christianity
Categories: Biblical Sites; Churches
Date: 1881 (church)
Features: Footsteps of Jesus; Miracle Site
Visitor Information
Coordinates: 32.746826° N, 35.338726° E   (view on Google Maps)
Lodging: View hotels near this location
Opening hours: Church: Mon-Sat 8am-noon and 2-6pm (5pm in winter); closed Sunday
Cost: Free
Note: This information was accurate when published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Article Sources

Article written by Holly Hayes with reference to the following sources:

  1. Kay Prag, Blue Guide Israel & the Palestinian Territories, 1st ed. (2002), 342-43.
  2. Khirbet Cana – BibleWalks
  3. Cana / Kafr Kanna, Israel – Planetware

Sea of Galilee


Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee
Coordinates 32°50′N 35°35′E / 32.833°N 35.583°E / 32.833; 35.583Coordinates: 32°50′N 35°35′E / 32.833°N 35.583°E / 32.833; 35.583
Lake type Monomictic
Primary inflows Upper Jordan River and local runoff [1]
Primary outflows Lower Jordan River, evaporation
Catchment area 2,730 km2 (1,050 sq mi) [2]
Basin countries Israel, Syria, Lebanon
 
Max. length 21 km (13 mi)
Max. width 13 km (8.1 mi)
Surface area 166 km2 (64 sq mi)
Average depth 25.6 m (84 ft)
Max. depth 43 m (141 ft)
Water volume 4 km3 (0.96 cu mi)
Residence time 5 years
Shore length1 53 km (33 mi)
Surface elevation -209 m (686 ft)
 
Islands 2
References [1][2]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Sea of Galilee, also Lake of Gennesaret, Lake Kinneret, Sea of Tiberias or Tiberias Lake (Hebrew: ים כנרת‎, Arabic: بحيرة طبرية‎), located near the Golan Heights, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km (33 miles) in circumference, about 21 km (13 miles) long, and 13 km (8 miles) wide. The lake has a total area of 166 km², and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m (141 feet).[3] At 209 metres below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake).[4] The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.

The Kinneret is situated deep in the Jordan Great Rift Valley, the valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian Plates. Consequently the area is subject to earthquakes and, in the past, volcanic activity. This is evident by the abundant basalt and other igneous rocks that define the geology of the Galilee region.

Etymology

The lake often appears on maps and in the New Testament as Sea of Galilee or Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1) while in the Hebrew Bible, it is called the “Sea of Chinnereth” (or spelled as “Kinnereth”) (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 13:27).

The name may originate from the Hebrew word kinnor (“harp” or “lyre”)) in view of the shape of the lake. Christian religious texts call it Lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1) or Sea of Gennesaret[5] after a small fertile plain that lies on its western side. The Arabic name for the lake is Buhairet Tabariyya (help·info) (بحيرة طبريا) meaning Lake Tiberias. Other names for the Sea of Galilee are Ginnosar, Lake of Gennesar, Sea of Chinneroth and Sea of Tiberias (Roman).

Antiquity

Lithograph of fishermen in the Sea of Galilee, 1890-1900

The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris, which linked Egypt with the northern empires. The Greeks, Hasmoneans, and Romans founded flourishing towns and settlements on the land-locked lake including Gadara, Hippos and Tiberias. The first-century historian Flavius Josephus was so impressed by the area that he wrote, “One may call this place the ambition of Nature.” Josephus also reported a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake.

Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee. In those days, there was a continuous ribbon development of settlements and villages around the lake and plenty of trade and ferrying by boat. The Synoptic gospels of Mark (1:14-20), Matthew (4:18-22), and Luke (5:1-11) describe how Jesus recruited four of his apostles from the shores of Lake Galilee: the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew and the brothers John and James. One of Jesus’ famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, is supposed to have been given on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his miracles are also said to have occurred here including his walking on water, calming the storm, and his feeding five thousand people (in Tabgha).

In 135 CE the second Jewish revolt against the Romans was put down. The Romans responded by banning all Jews from Jerusalem. The center of Jewish culture and learning shifted to the region of the Kinneret, particularly the city of Tiberias. It was in this region that the so-called “Jerusalem Talmud” is thought to have been compiled.

In the time of the Byzantine Empire, the lake’s significance in Jesus’ life made it a major destination for Christian pilgrims. This led to the growth of a full-fledged tourist industry, complete with package tours and plenty of comfortable inns.

Panoramic from Amnon, north of the sea

Medieval times

Political map of the Sea of Galilee region today

The lake’s importance declined when the Byzantines lost control and area came under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate and subsequent Islamic empires. Apart from Tiberias, the major towns and cities in the area were gradually abandoned.[citation needed] The palace Khirbat al-Minya was built by the lake during the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (705-715 CE). In 1187, Saladin defeated the armies of the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, largely because he was able to cut the Crusaders off from the valuable fresh water of the Sea of Galilee.

Modern times

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee

Astronaut photograph of the lake

In 1909, Jewish pioneers established the first cooperative farming village (kibbutz), Kvutzat Kinneret. The settlement trained Jewish immigrants in farming and agriculture. Later, Kinneret pioneers established Kibbutz Degania. The Kinneret is considered the cradle of the kibbutz culture of early Zionism and the birthplace of Naomi Shemer and the burial site of Rachel – two of the most prominent Israeli poets.

In 1917, the British defeated Ottoman Turk forces and took control of both Palestine and Syria. In the carve-up of the Ottoman territories between Britain and France, it was agreed that Britain would retain control of Palestine, while France would control Syria. However, the allies had to fix the border between the British and French Mandates.[6] In 1923 an agreement between the United Kingdom and France established the border between the British Mandate for Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria. The Zionist movement pressured the French and British to assign as many water sources as possible to Palestine during the demarcating negotiations. These constant demands influenced the negotiators and finally led to the inclusion of the whole Sea of Galilee, both sides of the Jordan river, Lake Hula, Dan spring, and part of the Yarmouk.[7] The High Commissioner of Palestine, Herbert Samuel, had demanded full control of the Sea of Galilee.[8] The new border followed a 10-meter wide strip along the lake’s northeastern shore,[9] and Syria became landlocked in the southwest. However, the British and French Agreement provided that:

  • any existing rights over the use of the waters of the Jordan by the inhabitants of Syria shall be maintained unimpaired.
  • the Government of Syria shall have the right to erect a new pier at Semakh on Lake Tiberias or to have joint use of the existing pier
  • persons or goods passing between the existing landing-stage or any future landing-stages on the Lake of Tiberias and Semakh Station shall not by reason of the mere fact that they must cross the territory of Palestine be deemed persons or goods entering Palestine for the purpose of Customs or other regulations, and the right of the Syrian Government and their agents to access to the said landing-stages is recognised.
  • the inhabitants of Syria and of the Lebanon shall have the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh and Tiberias and on the River Jordan between the said lakes as the inhabitants of Palestine, but the Government of Palestine shall be responsible for the policing of the lakes.[10]

On May 15, 1948, Syria invaded the State of Israel,[11] capturing some Israeli kibbutzim near the Sea of Galilee.[12] By the end of the war, Israel had recaptured the eastern shore.[citation needed]

Current status

Israel’s National Water Carrier, built in 1964, transports water from the lake to the population centers of Israel, and is the source of much of the country’s drinking water.

In 1964, Syria attempted construction of a Headwater Diversion Plan that would have blocked the flow of water into the Sea of Galilee, sharply reducing the water flow into the lake.[13] This project and Israel’s attempt to block these efforts in 1965 were factors which played into regional tensions culminating in the 1967 Six-Day War. During the war, Israel captured the Golan Heights, which contain some of the sources of water for the Sea of Galilee.

Under the terms of the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, Israel also supplies 50 million cubic metres of water annually from the lake to Jordan.[14]

Increasing water demand and some dry winters have resulted in stress on the lake and a decreasing water line, at times to dangerously low levels.

Today, tourism is again the Kinneret’s most important economic activity with the entire region being a popular holiday destination. The many historical and spiritual sites around the lake, especially its main town Tiberias, are visited by millions of local and foreign tourists annually. Other economic activities include fishing in the lake and agriculture, particularly bananas, in the fertile belt of land surrounding it.

A key attraction is the site where the Kinneret’s water flows into the Jordan River to which thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to be baptized every year.

Fauna and flora

The warm waters of the Sea of Galilee allow a variety of flora and fauna to thrive, which have supported a significant commercial fishery for over two millennia. Local flora includes a variety of reeds along most of the shoreline as well as Phytoplankton. Fauna includes Zooplankton and Benthos, as well as a fish population which notably includes Tilapia (locally known as St. Peter’s Fish).[15]

Environmental issues

Water levels March 2007 – April 2010

Water levels are dangerously low, putting the Sea of Galilee at risk of becoming irreversibly salinized by the salt water springs under the lake that are limited by the weight of the freshwater on top of them.[16]