The Jesus Boat

one of replicas of the ancient

one of replicas of the ancient “Jesus Boat” carrying a Ya’lla group on the Sea of Galilee

One of the most popular experiences included in our Christian tours of Israel is the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a large freshwater lake, 13 miles long and 8 miles across, better known in Israel as Kinneret, Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias. The lake feeds the Dead Sea, via the Jordan River, and, at roughly 700 feet below sea level, it’s the 2nd lowest lake on the planet, after the Dead Sea. It’s located in the Galilee region in northern Israel.

During a period of severe drought in 1986, the lake receded significantly, revealing the remains of an ancient boat buried in the sediment. The boat was excavated and dated to the 1st century, the time of Jesus. The boat is now housed in a small museum at Kibbutz Ginosar on the western shore of the lake. Close replicas of the boat take passengers on the lake past Christian sites, such as Tabgha (site of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes) and Capernaum (the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry), and stop to visit the remains of the ancient boat.

remains of a 1st-century Galilean fishing boat known as the Jesus Boat or the Ginosar Boat

remains of a 1st-century Galilean fishing boat known as the Jesus Boat or the Ginosar Boat

For Christians, the lake and its surroundings are significant as the area where much of Jesus’ ministry and many of his miracles took place. Four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew and the brothers James and John.

One day, after hours of pulling up empty nets, the four fishermen had just pulled into shore. (Andrew was already a disciple of Jesus, the first, but he hadn’t yet convinced the others.) Jesus approached and asked Peter to take him out on the lake a little way so that he could better address the crowd that had gathered to hear his teaching. Later, after the crowd had dispersed, Jesus asked Peter to move into deep water and cast out his nets. Peter thought this would be a waste of time, based on his experience earlier in the day, but out of respect, he did as Jesus asked. When the nets were pulled in, they were so heavy with fish the boat couldn’t hold them all. James and John came to help and their boat was also filled to the brim with fish. Jesus gained three more disciples that day.

Later in his ministry, Jesus had spent a long day preaching to a large crowd near the lake and needed to rest. While he and his disciples sailed to a quiet spot on the opposite shore, Jesus took a nap. When they reached the middle of the lake, a nasty squall rose up, bad enough to terrify the experienced fishermen on board. Jesus slept peacefully through the waves crashing on the deck and the pitching and rolling of the boat, until the disciples woke him, certain they were about to die. He told the storm to simmer down, which it promptly did, expressed his disappointment in his disciples’ lack of faith, and resumed his nap.

the Sea of Galilee

the Sea of Galilee

I could go on and on about Jesus and the Sea of Galilee, but I’ll save some stories for future posts.

The city of Tiberias on the western shore of the lake makes a good hub for visiting the area. For privately escorted Christian tours that include a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and a visit to the ancient boat at Ginosar look here and here.

 

NAME THAT COUNTRY

The Ramon Makhtesh in the southern desert of our mystery country is also known as the Ramon Crater and the Grand Canyon of _____. A makhtesh is a geological formation characterized by a deep impression and steep walls created by erosion, rather than by the impact of a celestial body or a volcanic eruption like true craters.
This type of crater is found only in the Negev Desert in and the Sinai Peninsula.
The Ramon Makhtesh is the largest one, at 25 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point and over 1600 feet deep. The Ramon Nature Reserve is the country’s largest national park.

 

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Ecomusée Berbere, Ourika Valley, Morocco

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

Visitors to Marrakech often take a day to venture into the High Atlas Mountains, which dominate the eastern horizon, less than an hour’s drive away. Besides mountain air and gorgeous scenery, they find many villages of the indigenous Amazigh people. (The Amazighen are better known as the Berbers, a name which derives from the ancient Greek or Roman for barbarian.)  Tafza is one such village, about 37km from Marrakech, on the edge of the Ourika Valley. It’s a typical Atlas village, friendly and scenic, with at least one notable distinction – the Ecomusée Berbere (Berber Ecomuseum).

This exceptional little cultural museum is housed in the restored ksar of a former caïd (castle of the tribal chief). The collection is well curated and includes rugs, tools, musical instruments, pottery, jewelry and fascinating antique photographs of Atlas village life in the early decades of the last century. The local hosts are knowledgeable and amiable guides and proud representatives of their heritage.

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

With advance reservation, guests can have a meal on the ksar’s large terrace, with broad mountain-valley views. Also with advance notice, more extensive experiences are available, such as traditional pottery workshops and walking tours of the village and environs.

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

The Ecomusée Berbere is partnered with another fine museum, Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech, which we wrote about here.

NAME THAT COUNTRY

This little fellow is called Anubis. In the ancient religion of our mystery country, he was a sort of guide dog (jackal really, dog-adjacent) and protector of the dead. Death and the afterlife was of paramount concern in this religion, with heavy emphasis on the afterlife.
Death was seen as a series of tests and trials leading, if all went well, to a peaceful, eternal afterlife. The dead would be armed with prayers and spells to ease the passage. At the final hurdle, the dead would be judged on the life they lead by weighing their heart against the feather of justice. Anubis presided over this ultimate test. If the scales balanced, the soul of the dead was accepted into eternal paradise. If the heart was heavier than the feather, it was instantly devoured by a hideous beast known as, well, the Devourer, and that was that.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Machaerus Desert Fortress

The fortified mountain palace of Machaerus is infamous as the place where Salome danced for the head of John the Baptist, whom her step father Herod Antipas had imprisoned there for two years.

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:1-12)

Machaerus is one of three fortified desert retreats built by Herod the Great (father to Herod Antipas); the others being Masada and Herodium. It’s the only one east of the Jordan river, today in the country of Jordan, 40km south of Madaba, near the village of Mukawir. The stronghold at Machaerus was first built by the Maccabees, the Jewish dynasty that ruled the region for about 100 years before the Roman client-King Herod the Great launched his dynasty in 37 BCE. Machaerus was destroyed by the Romans in 57 BCE and restored by Herod around 30 BCE.

There’s little excavation and restoration and no signage at Machaerus, so bring your imagination and a guide. Aside from the historical context, the serene atmosphere and 180-degree views of the Dead Sea and rugged, deeply etched desert are well worth the climb, especially at sunset. The walk from the parking area to the top looks more daunting than it is. A moderately fit person can do it in 15-20 minutes. Wear sturdy walking shoes, carry water and avoid midday heat.