Kinneret and Jordan Valley
It's time to visit the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), the largest fresh-water lake in Israel, the lowest lake in the world and the source for much of Israel's drinking water. Shaped like a harp, the Kinneret is the subject of many Hebrew songs. Let's take the time to enjoy the water sports, visit historical sites, and magnificent views the Sea of Galilee offers us.
Tiberias (Tveria, in Hebrew) is the only city around the Kinneret and was established 2000 years ago during the time of Herod the Great. Tveria is mentioned in the Talmud in connection with its 17 well-known hot springs. It's time to take a calming break at Hammat Tveria (Tiberias hot springs) which was rediscovered in 1920 and enjoy the healing qualities of the water. Nearby you will see a gorgeous 4th century synagogue mosaic attesting to the vibrant Jewish life of this area at that time.
Let me tell you about the 2000 year old boat: about 30 years ago, two brothers, living on a kibbutz along the Kinneret, discovered an ancient 1st century Galilean boat sticking out of the mud. It took about seven years of submersion in a chemical bath to enable the Jesus Boat to be put on display at the Yigal Allon Museum. You will enjoy the captivating exhibit of how the boat was preserved, the 12 types of wood used to construct the boat and the videos are worth watching.
At the Kinneret Courtyard, you will see first-hand the hardships the first pioneers encountered when they came to this area around 100 years ago. Imagine that this area was barren and desolate except for one date tree! Now, just look around you at the lush and beautiful area around the Kinneret, all thanks to those brave pioneers who had a vision of a blooming land! Learn about the beginnings of the communal Kibbutz idea, women's equality, passion for the Land and the backbone for the future State of Israel. A visit to the Kinneret Cemetery will give you a glimpse of some of those early pioneers including Rachel the Poetess and Naomi Shemer, the famous composer of "Jerusalem of Gold".
Nearby we can enjoy Hamat Gader with its natural hot springs dating back to the 2nd century and a popular site over many centuries due to their curative powers. Mentioned numerous times in the Talmud and on Greek and Arabic inscriptions, Hamat Gader was THE go to place for social and medicinal purposes. Today, our visit to Hamat Gader will include their wildlife zoo including alligators, crocodiles, a parrot show, and other interesting wildlife. Make sure not to miss the adjacent spa village where you can stay overnight or just get a massage, as well as swim year-round in 42 degrees Celsius mineral pools surrounded by dramatic cliffs above. It's a great place to enjoy the water and unwind even in the winter when the weather is colder in the rest of the country.
You can enjoy a range of activities around the Kinneret, including boat rides, kayaking, rafting, water sports, Sabba Yossi's carpentry shop at Ein Gev, as well as visits to Kibbutz Degania, Capernaum, Yardenit and Beit Saida. Plan a stop at Tamar Bakfar, a lovely store with loads of local products including spices, loose fruit teas, wines, different varieties of Israeli dates, pottery and kitchen accessories. Ask to see the free film about the owner's family, the Schneidmans, who were among the founders of Moshava Kinneret over 100 years ago.
The Jordan Valley extending from the Kinneret to the Dead Sea was created by tectonic movement, creating a deep fertile valley in the north, and the famous city of Jericho – city of date palms – in the south. Let's begin by visiting the amazing archaeological park in Beit Shean, Emek Hama'ayanot, which combines springs, rivers, fields, fishponds, water and historic and archaeological sites in an area below Mount Gilboa.
Let's drive along Road 90 up the Jordan Valley around the oldest city of Jericho, through small Arab villages, Jewish moshavim and kibbutzim and home to an impressive number of date groves – the best dates on earth! 60% of the luscious medjool dates sold in the world are exported from Israel.
Let's visit Old Gesher, a reconstruction of the original Kibbutz Gesher which was destroyed during the War of Independence. This is a great place to hear about the historical events in the area during the 1948 War of Independence. A new kibbutz Gesher was subsequently built a few miles to the west.
Now let's visit ancient Beit Shean with its 18 levels of civilization on a giant tel! This area has had a multitude of names, including Nisa Scythopolis and Beisan and was the capitol of Palaestina Secunda during the Roman Empire. Here we can see the remains of a typical Roman bathhouse, theatre, markets, wide streets and stores, mosaic floors as well as ancient communal latrines where the waste water was channeled off to nearby streams. We can even see clear signs of an earthquake that occurred in 749 ce, witnessed by fallen columns and buildings. A fabulous sound and light show is also available after dark.