Monday, July 12, 2010

A Biblical Scholar's First Impressions of Israel VII: Galilee

For the student interested in early Judaism, the historical Jesus or Christian origins, it is of course essential to spend some time in Galilee.  Or "the Galilee" as everyone in Israel calls it, as well as the most trendy New Testament scholars.  Since I want to be trendy too, I am trying to get used to the definite article, but years of familiarity with "Galilee" make the transition difficult.

Our Israel trip was split into two.  Tel Aviv was our base for the first half, and we spent the second half in Galilee.  We hired a car and drove up from the Dead Sea.  As far as we could work out, the best way to do things was to stay in Tiberias, which is the big bustling city by the Sea of Galilee, with thirty or more hotels and tons of shops and restaurants.  We stayed in the Prima Galil, which Tripadvisor told us was the third best hotel in Tiberias, gathering its good reputation from friendly service and great breakfasts, though the rooms are a little pokey and price a little high.

Tiberias itself is an unattractive kind of city, but we found a great little restaurant called "Galileo" (Galileo, get it?) on the outskirts, where you can sit outside and watch the sun set over the Sea of Galilee, while eating good soup and hot bread with hummus, tahini and the like, and drinking the Goldstar beer.

I keep saying "the Sea of Galilee" through familiarity.  It is, after all, what Matthew and Mark call it.  Luke talks about Lake Gennesaret and John about the Sea of Tiberias, but the modern name is Lake Kinneret.  We drove around the whole thing anti-clockwise on one occasion and it takes about 30-40 minutes, if memory serves.  There are some lovely views at certain points.  In the picture here, I am standing in front of the lake in a spot where Jesus may have stood, though I don't think that railing was there back in the first century.  I have Capernaum just in front of me.

Towards the end of our stay in Tiberias, we took one of the boat trips out onto the sea.  This "lido" trip was 24 shekels each (c. $6) and set off from a jetty that proudly advertised that it belonged to American TV evangelist Benny Hinn!  Frankly, the sea trip was a touch disappointing.  The lido just drove out for a bit and then turned around and came back, less than an hour in all, and without a clear idea of what it seemed to be trying to do.  More happily, though, there is a great restaurant nearby called "Decks" where you get to sit outside, overlooking the sea, while eating barbecued food and drinking Goldstar.  They even bring a mini-barbecue to the table so that the sweet potatoes continue to cook on the charcoal while you eat your bread, hummus and tahini.


J. P. van de Giessen said...

Prima Galil is indeed one of the better hotels in Tiberias. About the price I payed in march $75 per/night for a 2-room-suite with bathroom and including breakfast (for 2 persons).

On the terrace of the hotel are several beautiful citrus-trees, I was allowed to cut off a branch/twig with a root, which is now growing in my garden. And the gardener of the hotel gave me several advices about how to let grow the small tree. The service is great ;)

Mark Goodacre said...

Good to hear you visited too. We paid just over $200 a night for four of us, but what they called a "spacious mini-suite" was far from it -- cramped and pokey -- sofabed for mum and dad.