A Personal Travel Guide To Israel: Tsfat (Safed), The Kinneret and Eastern Galilee

tzfat itinerary

By Douglas E. Duckett

A Personal Travel Guide To Israel – Find all the chapters here

Tsfat (Safed)—The Mystical City

Suggested Time:  One night, optional, depending on interests

This stop is quite optional and an alternative to Rosh Pina (below), depending on both time and specific interests.  The city is frankly a little run down, and if you stay here, there are three possible reasons. First, Tsfat (or as it is usually called in English, “Safed”) is the birthplace and heart of Jewish mysticism, often called “Kabbalah,” and if that is something that interests you, there is nowhere better to experience it than here.  Tsfat is one of Judaism’s four holy cities, and its spiritual atmosphere is palpable. Second, even outside of that specific, religious connection, Tsfat is also one of Israel’s artistic centers with a very extensive Artists’ Quarter in the old Arab section. Finally, Tsfat, perched high in the mountains of the Upper Galilee, is significantly cooler in the summer, and as such is a major holiday destination for Israelis trying to escape the occasionally brutal summer heat.  Rosh Pina, while not as high in elevation, is similar.

In Tsfat, I recommend you stay at the remarkable Ruth Rimonim Inn, a lovely 300-year old renovated Turkish khan (inn) that is quite romantic.  It is located in the Artists’ Colony, tel. (04) 699-4666. If you do stay there, get a room in the older section, which is more romantic.  My husband and I loved Room 9. (The newer rooms are lovely; they just don’t have the same charm and character.) The region is beautiful, hilly and high, and as noted, is quite a bit cooler in both the summer and winter.  While an advantage in the summer, it may be quite a bit less pleasant in the winter.

As I mentioned, Tsfat is significant as the center of Jewish mysticism, and I highly recommend a tour guide named Aryeh Buznakh, who offers walking tours of “mystical Tsfat.”  While I’m not one to overly rely on tour guides, Tsfat is difficult to access on your own, with many of the synagogues and other sites hidden away in the warrens of this ancient city.  You can reach Aryeh at (054) 638-3309 or at lilach188@gmail.com.  I used him several years ago, and our time with him was very memorable.  People I have referred to him since have all been pleased.

In the section on Caesarea, I mentioned the artwork of Asia Katz.  Her gallery in Tsfat (she lives in the town) can be found at 7 Levanon Street in the Artists’ Colony, (04) 692-2373 or (052) 433-8862.  Taste is personal, but you can see her work; the piece to the right is the one we purchased in 1997.  Her studio is in the city.

Tsfat is not much of a restaurant town.  Many people staying at the Rimonim take their meals at the hotel, and that is an option.  There are some places to eat there, but I recommend a couple of places a short drive away, in the city of Rosh Pina (though neither is kosher if that’s an issue).  My favorite is the Shiri Bistro at Pina Barosh (see p. 38 for more information), known for its extensive offering of wines and cocktails.  Another good choice is Auberge Shulamit, or as it is known in Hebrew, Ahuza Shulamit, (04) 693-1485, see also www.shulamit.co.il.   Rosh Pina is about a 15-minute drive from Tsfat, and not much farther from Tiberias.  

The Kinneret and Eastern Galilee Region

Suggested Time:  Two Nights

You have choices here—either the large city of Tiberias or the many communities on or near the lovely Lake Kinneret (the biblical Sea of Galilee), with proximity to numerous historical sites of great interest to both Jews and Christians. For Christians, this is the area that they will likely feel closest to the life of Jesus of Nazareth, for it was here that he spent all but the last week of his public ministry.  For Jews, the Talmud says, “God made the seven seas, but the Kinneret is his jewel.” The city of Tiberias is itself a tad run down—but remains convenient to restaurants and hotels. Other communities have their own advantages and charms, but fewer restaurant options.

Nazareth, Tiberias & Sea of Galilee Day Trip from Tel Aviv

\Wherever you stay, I recommend that you spend a day circumnavigating the Lake by car using this booklet and Frommer’s or Fodor’s as your guide.  The directions here presuppose that you are setting out north from Tiberias, but you can adapt from wherever you stay, and the order is not particularly important.  At the outset, don’t miss the exhibit of a 2,000-year-old fishing boat recovered from the shores of Lake Kinneret during a drought in 1986, which only went on display in late 1999.  Because the boat is roughly contemporaneous with Jesus of Nazareth, it is the subject of much speculation and interest. It’s on display at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, and the video showing the process of recovering and preserving the boat is fascinating.  

As you proceed north along the lake’s western shore, key stops may include the Magdala Center, where archeologists under Roman Catholic supervision are now excavating the important First Century C.E. Jewish town that gave Mary Magdalene her name (see www.magdala.org for more information).  This site is truly amazing—both the archaeological excavations and stunning, modern worship spaces. Next going north (from Tiberias at least) is Tabgha, with the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter; and Capernaum with its amazing White Synagogue from the Fourth Century as well as what are believed to be the remains of Peter’s home and the First Century C.E. synagogue in which Jesus preached.  Going up the nearby hill, you will see Korazim and its ancient synagogue from the Fourth Century C.E. and the Mount of Beatitudes with its modern but simple and lovely Church of the Beatitudes, which commemorates this traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount.  Around the northern end to the east side of Lake Kinneret, you will find Kursi with a Byzantine church from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries commemorating the “miracle of the swine”; and Ein Gev on the east side of the lake at the base of the Golan Heights, a kibbutz famous throughout the country for its summer concerts and excellent lakeside fish restaurant.  At the southern end of Lake Kinneret, you will cross the Jordan River as it exits the lake on its path to the Dead Sea—and you’ll see that there is nothing “mighty” about it.  While dams retain some water here, for most of its length, it’s barely a creek, in part because of the water demands of this thirsty country.  There is a baptismal site for Christian pilgrims at Yardenit.  Just before you re-enter Tiberias, don’t miss the ruins of the Severus Synagogue from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries at Hammat Tiberias; the mosaics are amazing.  You can do all this in a day, though it will be a long one.

If you are staying in Tiberias itself and are looking for an upscale splurge, I recommend the Scots Hotel, which is situated downtown on Lake Kinneret, tel. (04) 671-0710, www.scotshotels.co.il.  The hotel is owned by the Church of Scotland (the Presbyterian Church in the United States), and in the early 2000s, the church renovated and greatly expanded what was a hospital and pilgrim’s hospice dating back to the 1880s.  Some rooms incorporate sections from the original buildings, and there are new towers as well. The breakfasts are fantastic, and the pool is sparkling clean and overlooks the lake. Unfortunately, prices have skyrocketed since it opened, so while it may be worth a splurge, be forewarned of sticker shock.  Also, note that the Scots Hotel is not kosher. Another, much less expensive option is Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, just north of the city.  Tel. (04) 670-0320, fax (04) 679-2170, web site at www.ginosar.co.il/en.  This is the place with the 2,000-year-old boat.  The kibbutz has both a hotel and a set of small cottages called Ginosar Village.  Rooms are priced reasonably, and it is located right on Lake Kinneret just a few kilometers north of Tiberias.  In 2015, I stayed in one of the cottages in Ginosar Village; it was basic but charming and quiet and far better than the hotel, in my view.  But this place is hugely popular with the big bus tours and a bit overfull of large American tour groups for my taste—I love my fellow Americans, but I don’t go to Israel to hang out with them.  Visitors and experts on the TripAdvisor forum also speak highly of Ma’agan Holiday Village on the southern side of Lake Kinneret, and a so-called “dude ranch” called Vered Ha-Galil, complete with horseback riding, is located on the north side of the Kinneret.  There are also more upscale (and kosher) hotel options in Tiberias itself if you’re so inclined; ask Regent Tours.

 Rosh Pina.  In 2017, I stayed for the first time in this lovely town not far north of Tiberias, and I am now sold on Rosh Pina as my base for this region.  Rosh Pina is the Hebrew word for “cornerstone” (See Psalm 118:22—“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”), and the name reflects its key role as one of the settlements of the First Aliyah in the 1880s as religious Zionist Jews established new communities in this region of Upper Galilee.  The town is hilly with spectacular views to the east over the Ḥula Valley and the Golan. My favorite place to stay is a guesthouse called Pina Barosh (a play on the town’s name), which incorporates some of first stone homes built by those Zionist pioneers (see above right).  Located at 8 Ha-Ḥalutzim Road, www.PinaBarosh.com, tel. (04) 693-6582.  Each room is unique and oozes character, with lovely courtyards in between (right).  Omer Noy is the manager of the guesthouse and the restaurant, and he is terrifically helpful; omer@pinabarosh.com.  The Shiri Bistro at the guesthouse is one of Rosh Pina’s better restaurants, an open-air courtyard with great views.  What makes the place, though, is its incredible staff and service—I befriended several of the staff while there.  My second visit in 2018 was just as memorable—it is now my place…

Nazareth, Tiberias & Sea of Galilee Day Trip from Tel Aviv

On the eastern side of the Lake, at the base of the Golan Heights, you have the option of the large Ramot Resort (www.ramotresort.com).  While this side of the Lake is a bit more remote, the Ramot Resort is a beautiful facility with spectacular views of the Lake from nearly every room.  Sunsets over the Galilee hills are stunning! Ramot offers both hotel rooms and private cabins. I stayed there a few years ago and liked it a lot—though navigating the hordes of Israeli families at meals can be a not-so-pleasant experience.  This is a kosher place, run by the nearby moshav of Ramot. (A moshav is a communal settlement like a kibbutz, but property is privately owned.) Another and perhaps better choice within the moshav itself is a small guesthouse that an Israel friend recommends, called The Best View There Is (Ha-Khi Nof Sh’Yesh), tel. (04) 673-1113; www.dodo4u.net/EN/.  Another option on the eastern side of the Lake is the Ein Gev Holiday Resort (www.eingev.com), run by the Kibbutz Ein Gev.

You can have a different experience by staying in a guesthouse, which Israelis call a “zimmer” (from the German/Yiddish word for “room”; the “z” is pronounced “ts”).  These are akin to what North Americans would call a “bed-and-breakfast,” though breakfast may incur an additional charge; you need to check. The moshav Amirim has many zimmers available.  I stayed at Nof 10 (“View 10”) in May 2008, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed.  This was a definite splurge at ₪1,100 a night for a cabin (₪800 a night on weekdays), but it was very much worth it.  Just look at that view of the Kinneret, the Golan, and the entire region on the left—all visible while soaking in a Jacuzzi! See www.nof10.com/View-10-Amirim.htm for more information.  Prices may vary. You can contact Eran, the owner, at (04) 698-0927 or (052) 236-1011.  He lives in another building on the site just up the hill. Note also that these cabins are for adults only, but Amirim is full of zimmerim designed for families with kids as well.  The entire Amirim community is vegetarian (residents of the moshav must commit to that).  Some visitors will find that appealing, but all visitors are expected to respect and abide by that during their stay.  

For meal options in the area, Tiberias has two excellent Chinese restaurants on the shore of Lake Kinneret—Ha-Bayit (The House) and the Pagoda, which are jointly owned.  Tel. (04) 672-5513; pagoda@lido-galilee.com.  The restaurants share the same menu, but The House is not kosher-certified because it is open only on Erev Shabbat (Friday night) and during the day on Shabbat.  (No restaurant that is open on Shabbat can receive a kosher certificate, no matter what type of food is served there.) The food itself is “kosher,” though, since it has the same menu as its kosher sister restaurant.  You need to reserve ahead for the House; as one of the few places open on Friday evening, it fills up fast.  Another great restaurant nearby is Decks (kosher), and it is built out over the lake, with an incredibly romantic view of the lake and the town.  The food (mainly grilled meats and fish) is great as well. The telephone number is (04) 672-1538. A little south of Tiberias is a fabulous, upscale place, the Magdalena Restaurant in the Magdala Center, one of the best restaurants I have found in northern Israel.   Tel. (04) 673-0064, www.MagdalenaRest.com, e-mail magdalena@gmail.com.   Finally, you could easily visit Auberge Shulamit, discussed under the Tsfat section, or the Shiri Bistro at Pina Barosh in Rosh Pina (pp. 37-38) for a dinner while staying in Tiberias (neither is kosher).  (The Shiri Bistro is my favorite restaurant in Rosh Pina, and there are some other options as well.)  Amirim has some vegetarian restaurants, and I found Dalia’s to be quite delightful.  Dalia herself presides over the evening, hovers and clucks lovingly over guests, the very embodiment of a doting Polish Jewish grandmother.  The food is served family-style, plentiful and delicious.  Tel. (04) 698-9349.

A final note on Tiberias—the city is about 600 feet (182 m) below sea level and is consequently quite hot in the summertime.  It’s also warmer in the winter. For that reason, one way to choose between Tiberias and higher elevation, cooler locales such as Tsfat, Rosh Pina, or Amirim (which are not far apart) is to consider what season you are traveling in.

One great resource on Galilee travel generally is http://this-is-galilee.com.   I already mentioned the lake circuit, which makes for a delightful and memorable day.  This area is also the gateway to two other, major regions of Israel, the Ḥula Valley at the northern end of the Jordan River, and the Golan, the region that Israel conquered from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.  Either is an easy day trip from Tiberias or anywhere in the Kinneret region.

The Ḥula Valley, known to Israelis simply as “Ha-Ḥula” (note the guttural h, a kh sound) is an area of marshlands that the Zionist pioneers drained in the 1940s—and eventually Israelis realized that they had inadvertently created an ecological disaster.  Israel is the fertile land bridge between the vast Eurasian landmass and Africa, and each spring and fall, millions of migratory birds traverse this tiny land, with many of the water birds landing, feeding, and resting in these marshlands. Now, they were gone.  So, the Israelis reversed course and re-flooded part of the Ḥula, and if you are lucky enough to tour during late October or November or March and April, you can see the most spectacular flocks of cranes, pelicans, and storks as they make their way to Africa for the winter or to Europe and Asia for the summer.  Go to the Agamon, and you can tour either on foot for only ₪3, or you can rent a bicycle or golf cart, or you can tour on a tractor that pulls a viewing gallery (that’s how I have done it).  See www.agalili.com/en/ for more information.  You can also rent binoculars there.  This experience really is quite breathtaking.  My late mother, may she rest in peace, was an avid birder, and she would have loved it!

Tel Hazor.  I am embarrassed to admit that in sixteen previous visits, I have never visited this extremely important and vast archeological site.  Hazor was the largest Canaanite city in what would become the Land of Israel, and it is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible. First, we hear of Hazor in the story of Joshua’s conquest and later we hear about how King Solomon fortified the city under his United Kingdom (which only lasted during David and Solomon’s reign; thereafter, it split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah).  Hazor is indeed vast, significantly larger than its contemporary counterpart at Megiddo (Armageddon). The coolest part of Hazor (for me) was a water system with a tunnel that descends 46 meters into the earth, to groundwater level, which provided the city water even in times of siege when it was impossible to access water outside the city walls. Seeing a gate from the time of Solomon at Hazor was pretty cool as well.  But it was the Israelite tower at the western wall of the fortifications that haunted me. It was built to fend off the Assyrian invaders, but to no avail—in 732 B.C.E., Hazor and Galilee would fall to the relentless army from that empire to the northeast, and shortly thereafter the entire Kingdom of Israel would be deported into oblivion, the legendary “ten lost tribes.”

The Golan region, captured from the Syrians in the 1967 Six-Day War, is spectacular, with much to see, including the ancient city of Qatzrin, its modern equivalent (the capital of the Israeli Golan), and the Israeli portion of Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in the country, which is snow-capped much of the year and offers the country’s only ski resort in the winter!  Note: Despite the tragic and seemingly endless Syrian civil war, the Golan remains generally calm and safe. For a view over the UN-monitored demilitarized zone into Syria, you can visit Mount Bental, which overlooks the Valley of Tears, the site of the largest tank battle in world history during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Today, Mount Bental hosts both UN truce observers and a coffee shop called Koffee Annan (a pun on the name of the former UN Secretary-General).  You may even hear sounds from the fighting in Syria. But the most spectacular site of all on the Golan, in my view, is Gamla, often called “the Masada of the north.”  The historian Josephus tells us that in the Great Revolt of 66-70 C.E., Roman armies laid siege to this city, which sat so high on its crested ridge that “it almost seemed to hang in the air.”  The town’s name came from the Hebrew word for camel (gamal), because the distinctive hump, seen at left, looked much like a camel’s back.  The population at that time was swollen by Jewish refugees fleeing the Roman onslaught, and when the Roman forces broke through the defensive wall, some 9,000 Jews either jumped to their deaths from the far end of the ridge or were hurled into the ravines.  The ruins are spectacularly preserved; you can even see exactly where the Romans broke through. The hike down to the ruins and back up is very rigorous; you may be able to catch a ride on a tram. The region is also a spectacular nature reserve, with a 51-meter waterfall and one of the best protected habitats of the Griffon vulture, with a wing-span of up to 2.7 meters!  These spectacular birds soar soundlessly on the thermal drafts along the ravines on each side of Gamla—on my first visit, I hit the dirt when one swooped just a meter or two over my head! They are among the most beautiful examples of birds in flight I have ever seen. On my most recent visit, I toured the newly opened national heritage site at Ein Kshatot, also known in Arabic as Umm el-Kanatir.  This site is amazing—but note that both Google Maps and Waze told me that “you have arrived” in the middle of a cow pasture, so keep driving farther and you’ll find it.  Ein Kshatot was a Jewish town in the Talmudic period, and its synagogue was built a couple of centuries later than Korazim’s, in the 6th Century C.E.  I was expecting some interesting ruins and maybe mosaic floors, but what I found was by far the most extant, restored ancient synagogue I have ever seen in Israel!  The entire town was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 732 C.E. and was thereafter abandoned, so piecing this synagogue back together was a huge jigsaw puzzle with enormous, basalt stones.  This was a quite large town; the trail starts at the spring with its arches (which gave the town its Arabic name Umm el-Kanatir). Most of the remains of the town remain to be reconstructed; I would expect that the work will continue, so I’ll be back.  But the synagogue!—I thought that Korazim, Capernaum, and other Galilean synagogues were impressive. This one has been almost completely reconstructed (minus a roof), and it’s full of interesting (and inexplicable) details—a column pedestal featuring a lion eating an animal while a rooster watches, and the head and front claws of a cat above the synagogue’s only circular window.  (And why? Did the main donor covering the construction costs have a cat he loved? Generally Jews of the time avoided depicting any humans or animals because of the Second Commandment’s prohibition of “graven images”—why this exception? For a cat?) This is truly a wow! site

Banias and Tel Dan.  In Israel’s far north, there are two remarkable national parks.  Banias is a mountain where fresh water springs “magically” emerge to create one of the three tributaries that make up the Jordan River.  The springs absolutely gush at the end of winter, and this made it a long-revered holy place for pagan faiths, including worship of the Greek and Roman god Pan (the name is an Arabic corruption of “Pan”).  Nearby Tel Dan National Park is near the northern tip of Israel, right on what was the border with Syria until 1967 and where Syria, Lebanon, and Israel came together.  At Dan, water gushes up from the ground rather magically in several springs fed by aquifers in the Golan, and even in November at the end of the rain-parched summer, it was still gushing!  Water roared down streams that come together and make up the second of the tributaries that feed into the Jordan. It was a beautiful sight however you cut it, but in this arid land, it was glorious to see.  Dan is also of great Biblical and historical interest—here the only extra-biblical evidence of King David was found, a stella referring to “Bet David” (the “House of David”). Even more remarkable was the excavated and quite intact shrine that King Jeroboam erected after the collapse of the United Kingdom into separate Israel and Judah, designed to keep pilgrims of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from going to the Kingdom of Judah’s capital in Jerusalem, with one shrine at Dan and the other at Beth-El.  See I Kings 12:29-33.  This was one of the most amazing archeological confirmations of the biblical history and text that I have ever seen.

Arbel Cliffs.  Not far from Tiberias (and an easy stop on the way) is the Arbel Cliffs National Park, with its stunning cliff formation that looms over the city and the lake.  You can really see the beginning of the Great Syrian-African Rift from these cliffs—and the entirety of Lake Kinneret is spread out before you. The views are breathtaking—even if the cliff-edges can be a tad unnerving.  Especially with kids, be careful.

When the time comes to leave the Kinneret/eastern Galilee region and drive to Jerusalem, you have two choices.  You can take Highway 65 to link up with Highway 6, the Trans-Israel Highway, a new toll road and superhighway that will take you to Route 1 and the road to Jerusalem.  Or you can continue on to Route 4 or Route 2 along the coast, which are non-toll highways but may have brutal traffic near rush hours. Both these routes are completely inside the “Green Line,” or pre-1967 Israel.  This approach also allows you to easily make two wonderful stops.

Mount Tabor.  This mountain, which overlooks the Valley of Jezreel from the north, is the site of two major biblical events.  We read in the Book of Judges how Deborah’s general Barak vanquished Sisera, charging down from Mount Tabor “with ten thousand men behind him.”  The Song of Deborah is widely believed by scholars to be one of the oldest fragments of the Hebrew Bible. In the New Testament, tradition identifies Tabor as the “high mountain” on which Jesus was transfigured before his three closest disciples, Peter, John, and James, and appeared in glory with Moses and Elijah, representing the Torah (Law) and the Prophets.  The drive up the mountain is on a narrow, switchback road that can be quite unnerving—not for the timid! The view of the Valley of Jezreel is worth it, though.

Megiddo.  This national park contains excavations of a tel (hill from layers of history) with remains of cities going back to the Canaanite period (c. 3500 B.C.E.).  Megiddo guards the southern side of the Valley of Jezreel as Tabor guards the north, and armies have marched through this critical pass, from Egyptians to Assyrians to Babylonians to Israelites, all the way to the British and the Israelis in the 20th Century.  Megiddo is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and the park contains the remarkable ruins of gates from the time of King Solomon, the chariot city of King Ahab (and his much-maligned wife Jezebel), and most amazingly, a water system probably constructed by Ahab in the 9th Century B.C.E. with a tunnel cut through solid rock for hundreds of meters.  The tunnel guaranteed that the fortress would always have water in times of siege, critical to survival in ancient times, and you can walk all the way through it!  (As noted above, he also built a similar water system in Hazor farther east.) Of course, Megiddo is perhaps best known to Christians as the site of the great battle at the End of Days described in the New Testament book of Revelation;  “Armageddon” is a Greek corruption of the Hebrew “Har Megiddo.”

The other route to Jerusalem is to take Route 90 south from Tiberias through the Jordan Valley and the West Bank, and then to take Highway 1 from just south of Jericho for the ascent up to Jerusalem.  While the route goes through the West Bank, it is under Israeli security control and safe, though you should check on local conditions first, particularly during winter rains, when the road can be closed by flash floods.  If you take that route, you can easily see the following sites along the way (or do so as a day trip from the cities in Upper Galilee):

Bet She’an.  Bet She’an is the site of some of the most spectacular Roman and Byzantine ruins in all Israel, with an ancient Roman theater that rivals Caesarea’s.  This is also the site of King Saul’s defeat, and here the bodies of Saul and his son (and David’s beloved friend) Jonathan were hung from the city walls as a taunt to the Israelites.  The site is breathtaking. For lunch, you could eat at Dag Dagan fish restaurant at the nearby Bet Alpha National Park; see below.

Belvoir.   This is the site of a major Crusader fortress that dominated the Lower Galilee.  The view of the Jordan Valley and the mountains of Gilead across the river in Jordan is stunning.  The name “Belvoir” in French means “beautiful view,” and it is indeed. In Hebrew, the site is known as Kochav ha-Yarden, or “the Star of the Jordan.”  This was one of the last Crusader fortresses to hold out against the forces of Salah al-Din (Saladin) after the Crusader defeat at the Horns of Hittin and the collapse of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  It is quite spectacular, one of the best Crusader sites in the country.

Bet Alpha.  This small national park contains the stunning mosaic floor of a synagogue built in the Sixth Century C.E., complete with depictions of the binding of Isaac, a Zodiac with the Greek sun god Helios at the center(!), and at the top a depiction of the Ark of the Covenant with a menorah on each side.  The use of pagan imagery such as the Zodiac and the Greek sun god is very interesting; also interesting is the way that the official explanations try to minimize or explain away the rather jarring incongruity. With the conquest of Alexander the Great and later Rome, Hellenism influenced Judaism in the Land of Israel, just as the devout Jew Saul became the apostle Paul and brought heavy Greek influences into nascent Christianity.  Physically, Bet Alpha is a “wow” experience; I literally heard nearly every visitor of every background say that word when he or she entered the room with the synagogue floor mosaic. Behind the park, you can get a great fish lunch at Dag Dagan Fish Restaurant.   I ordered a fish called “red drum fillet”—I have no idea what that is—but in perhaps the best, botched English translation of that trip, I ordered the “red drum filet raped in mustard.”  I am pretty sure that they were going for wrapped; I almost snorted some beer out of my nose when I read that one. (The fish was really tasty!) And as a note, the name literally means “Fish-Fisherman,” but put those two words together in Israeli Hebrew parlance, and you have a slang term for “clitoris.”  My Israeli friends kept telling me that I had to have the name of this place wrong, but that is the name—and the place was full of families and children running about.  See www.this-is-galilee.com/israeli-restaurant-1.html for proof that I’m not making this up.

Nazareth, Tiberias & Sea of Galilee Day Trip from Tel Aviv

Qasr al-Yahud.  While Yardenit just south of the Jordan River’s exit from the Kinneret is the most popular baptismal site for Christians, it is nowhere near the area where John the Baptizer performed his ministry.  For that, stop at Qasr al-Yahud (“the Jews’ Castle”) on the Jordan River just north of Jericho. Many pilgrims go there to be baptized or renew their baptisms, and it’s amazing how narrow the river is, with the Jordanian site perhaps four or five meters away away.  It’s a lovely spot, and it’s moving to see pilgrims from all over the world share this moving experience.

©2004-2019 Douglas E. Duckett, All rights reserved.

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