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Lake Tiberias

The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias (Hebrew: יָם כִּנֶּרֶת, Judeo-Aramaic: יַמּא דטבריא, Arabic: بحيرة طبرية‎), is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide. The lake has a total area of 166.7 km2 (64.4 sq mi) at its fullest, and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m (141 feet).[1] At levels between 215 metres (705 ft) and 209 metres (686 ft) below sea level,[2] it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake).[3] The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.

Geography

The Sea of Galilee is situated in northeast Israel, near the Golan Heights, in the Jordan 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 modern name, Kinneret, comes from the

In the ) (بحيرة طبريا).

All Bible writers use the term "sea" (Hebrew יָם yam, Greek Θαλασσα) except the Ginosar that lies on its western side.

History

Ancient and Classic Antiquity



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. Archaeologists discovered one such boat, nicknamed the Jesus Boat, in 1986.

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, the disciples and the boatload of fish, and his feeding five thousand people (in Tabgha).

In 135 CE Bar Kokhba's revolt 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 Galilee and the Kinneret, particularly the city of Tiberias. It was in this region that the so-called "Jerusalem Talmud" was 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.

Middle Ages

The lake's importance declined when the Byzantines lost control and the 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. 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 era


Throughout the early Ottoman era, the lake had little importance within the Ottoman Empire. Tiberias did see a significant revival of its Jewish community in the 16th century, but had gradually declined, until in 1660 the city was completely destroyed. In early 18th century, Tiberias was rebuilt by Daher al-Omar, becoming the center of his rule over Galilee, and seeing also a revival of its Jewish community.

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

In 1917, the British defeated Ottoman Turkish forces and took control of Palestine, while France took control of 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 Mandatory Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria.[7] The boundary was defined in broad terms by the Franco-British Boundary Agreement of December 1920, which drew it across the middle of the lake.[8] However, the commission established by the 1920 treaty redrew the boundary. The Zionist movement pressured the French and British to assign as many water sources as possible to Mandatory Palestine during the demarcating negotiations. The High Commissioner of Palestine, Herbert Samuel, had sought full control of the Sea of Galilee.[9] The negotiations led to the inclusion into the Palestine territory of the whole Sea of Galilee, both sides of the River Jordan, Lake Hula, Dan spring, and part of the Yarmouk.[10] The final border approved in 1923 followed a 10-meter wide strip along the lake's northeastern shore,[11] cutting the Mandatory Syria (State of Damascus) off from the lake.

The British and French Agreement provided that existing rights over the use of the waters of the Jordan by the inhabitants of Syria would be maintained; the Government of Syria would have the right to erect a new pier at Semakh on Lake Tiberias or jointly use the existing pier; persons or goods passing between the landing-stage on the Lake of Tiberias and Semakh would not be subject to customs regulations, and the Syrian government would have access to the said landing-stage; the inhabitants of Syria and Lebanon would have the same fishing and navigation rights on Lakes Huleh, Tiberias and River Jordan, while the Government of Palestine would be responsible for policing of lakes.[12]

On May 15, 1948, Syria invaded the newborn State of Israel,[13] capturing territory along the Sea of Galilee.[14] Under the 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Syria, Syria occupied the northeast shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The agreement, though, stated that the armistice line was "not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements." Syria remained in possession of the lake's northeast shoreline until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

In 1950s, Israel formulated a plan to link the Kinnereth with the rest of the country by National Water Carrier, in order to supply the water demand of the growing country. The carrier was completed in 1964. The Israeli plan, in line with the Headwater Diversion Plan (Jordan River) of the Arab League, sparked political and sometimes even armed confrontations over the Jordan River basin.

Archaeology

During a routine sonar scan in 2003, archaeologists discovered an enormous conical stone structure. They theorize that the structure, which has a diameter of around 230 feet (70 m), is thousands of years old. Though they think that this structure, which is made of boulders and stones, could reveal a great deal about ancient life in the Middle East, they cannot excavate the ruins. The ruins are estimated to be between 2,000 and 12,000 years old, and are about 10 metres (33 ft) underwater.[15]

Water use


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.[16] 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.

About 400,000,000 cubic metres (1.4×1010 cu ft) of water is pumped in the National Water Carrier each year.[17] Under the terms of the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, Israel also supplies 50,000,000 cubic metres (1.8×109 cu ft) of water annually from the lake to Jordan.[18]

Increasing water demand and dry winters have resulted in stress on the lake and a decreasing water line to dangerously low levels at times. The Sea of Galilee is at risk of becoming irreversibly salinized by the salt water springs under the lake, which are held in check by the weight of the freshwater on top of them.[19]

The Israeli government monitors water levels and publishes the results daily at this web page. The level over the past eight years can be retrieved from that site. By early April 2012, having risen almost 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) over the winter, the water level of the Kinneret was at its highest level in five years.[20] The Water Authority partly attributes the improvement to the expansion of desalination technology as a water source.[21][22] By early 2013, the Kinneret water level was at a 8 year high.[23]

Tourism


Today, tourism is the Sea of Galilee'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. The Sea of Galilee attracts many Christian pilgrims, because, according to the New Testament, many of the miracles of Jesus occurred on its shores—including his walking on water, calming the storm, and feeding five thousand people in Tabgha.

In April 2011, Israel unveiled a 40-mile (64 km) hiking trail in the Galilee for Christian pilgrims, called the "Jesus Trail". It includes a network of footpaths, roads and bicycle paths linking sites central to the lives of Jesus and his disciples. It ends at Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus espoused his teachings.[24]

Another key attraction is the site where the Sea of Galilee's water flows into the Jordan River, to which thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to be baptized every year.

Israel's most well-known open water swim race, the Kinneret Crossing, is held every year in September, drawing thousands of open water swimmers to participate in competitive and noncompetitive events.

Tourists also partake in the building of rafts on Lavnun Beach, called Rafsodia. Here many different age groups work together to build a raft with their bare hands and then sail that raft across the sea.

Other economic activities include fishing in the lake and agriculture, particularly bananas, in the fertile belt of land surrounding it.

Fauna and flora

The warm waters of the Sea of Galilee support various flora and fauna, which have supported a significant commercial fishery for more than two millennia. Local flora include various reeds along most of the shoreline as well as phytoplankton. Fauna include zooplankton, benthos and a number of fish species such as Acanthobrama terraesanctae. Fish caught commercially include Tristramella simonis and notably Tilapia, locally called "St. Peter’s Fish".[1] In 2005, 300 short tons (270 t) of tilapia were caught by local fishermen. This dropped to 8 short tons (7.3 t) in 2009 due to overfishing.[25]

However, low water levels in drought years have stressed the lake's ecology. This may have been aggravated by over-extraction of water for either the National Water Carrier to supply other parts of Israel or, since 1994, for the supply of water to Jordan (see "Water use" section above). Droughts of the early and mid-1990s dried out the marshy northern margin of the lake.[26] A fish species that is unique to the lake, Tristramella sacra, used to spawn in the marsh and has not been seen since the 1990s droughts.[26] Conservationists fear this species may have become extinct.[26]

See also

Panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee

References

External links

  • Israel Bans Fishing in Sea of Galilee
  • World Lakes Database entry for Sea of Galilee
  • Bibleplaces.com: Sea of Galilee
  • Peace Mural of the Sea of Galilee in the Chapel of the Good Shephard – Ramallah
  • Updated elevation of the Kinneret's level (Hebrew). Elevation (meters below sea level) is shown on the line following the date line.
  • Virtual Map of Israel: Kinneret
  • Sea Of Galilee Water Level Application [Google Store]

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