Galilee

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Galilee

Without the stroll on the water, the word Galilee would probably not have become a household word. Galilee is the name of a region and the name of a sea, also known as “Kinneret” in Hebrew, where this walking on water transpired. But this is not the beginning of Biblical and other postings about the area in the northern part of modern Israel.

There are a large number of Christian pilgrimage destinations on the shores of the Galilee, and on the nearby slopes, and along the Jordan River from which it is fed. Belvoir, Migdala, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Hermon in the Upper Galilee and Nazareth in the Lower Galilee, and Jardenit, where Jesus was baptized by John are just a few sites in the spiritually rich Galilee region. The Galilee extends to the Mediterranean Sea, and along the way there are more sites to be visited.

The Galilee is actually the entire area of the north of Israel from Akko in the west and the Jordan River in the east going north. The goings-on at and around the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River made the area famous, but the Galilee is actually identified mainly as a range of hills, with some dubbed as actual mountains and peaks, the tallest being, of course, Mt. Hermon with its ski lodge. Some hills in the Galilee are treated to blankets of snow in serious storms, delighting the children who then slip and slide rather than go to school, since the country is not very well equipped with snow ploughs. But it passes quickly, rarely more than one day at a time, while snow on the peaks of Mt. Hermon can be seen for months at a time and from far, far away.

Due to its rich rainfall, relatively speaking, the Galilee has been more densely populated than other areas since ancient times. It is a multicultural area with different Arab denominations in their own enclaves, such as the Druze in Peki’in, the Christians in Kfar Yassif, the Bedouin in Wadi Salame and Muslims in Tamra and Sheik Dinun; there are some communities that are mixed such as Ma’a lot-Tarshikha. Modern Jewish populations were and remain concentrated in the kibbutzim and other communal settlements around the Galilee and in a few cities such as Karmiel, Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, the latter two being in the news quite often during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in which many of their citizens left these towns to escape the katyusha rockets being launched by the Hezbollah, taking refuge in the central part of the country.

Two of the four sacred cities according to Jewish tradition are also situated in the Galilee: Safed, where the philosophy of the Kabala originated and Tiberias on the sea itself. Tiberias, known as the site of the compilation of the Jerusalem Talmud, is predicted to be the place where the redemption will begin and that the “Sanhedrin” (the supreme court of ancient Israel) will be reconvened. Similarly, Megiddo, the location where the Armageddon of Christian belief is to transpire, unsurprisingly is also situated in the Galilee. As far back as the Ottoman Period, the earliest communities for Jewish re-settling of the land took place in the Galilee where Jewish agricultural initiatives and the earliest kibbutzim took root. This continued through the British Mandate period, right up until the present.

Nature reserves, parks, hiking trails, springs and waterfalls such as at Baram, Mt. Merom, Banias, Tel Dan, Mt. Arbel, Mt. Gilboa, and the grottos at Rosh HaNikra along with so many other natural attractions may have changed hands over and over during the centuries but they are alive and well and welcoming everyone to the Galilee of the 21st century.

You may also find the following places interesting:

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