Image via Flickr by karen horton
Last year, according to Israel’s Tourism Ministry, a record 3.5 million tourists visited the country, and 53% of these tourists were Christian. These official stats list Roman Catholics as the Christians who visit Israel most, and there’s good reason to believe that an even larger share of Catholics have been enjoying Holy Land trips over the course of 2014, following the Papal pilgrimage of May 2014.
The Pope’s most recent visit was extremely short and encompassed only a few of the holy sites in Jerusalem, but there are many more sites that Christians will enjoy visiting in Israel in 2015 and beyond. The Sea of Galilee, known locally as the Kinneret, was the location of the ministry of Jesus and is therefore rich in iconic holy sites that Christian pilgrims won’t want to miss. Below are details on five sites in the area of Tiberias that are considered to be must-sees.
Commemorating Transfiguration at Mt. Tabor
Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Tabor’s Church of Transfiguration commemorates Jesus becoming radiant and speaking to Moses and Elijah on the mountain. Make sure to see the mosaic and take a stroll through the landscaped garden, planted in memory of the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1964.
Wine Floweth at Cana
Cana was the site of the first public miracle performed by Jesus, the turning of water into wine at a wedding. Today Cana is a quaint Arab village filled with ancient buildings and caves as well as the Church of St. George. Inside the church, you will find the six stone jars that were used by Jesus to perform the miracle.
Baptism from the Source at Yardenit
At the junction between the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee lies this primary baptismal site. A baptism at Yardenit is a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual experience. Before and after the baptism, take advantage of private scenic spots set up for personal and group prayer.
Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha
Situated on the northern shore of the Kinneret, Tabgha was the location where Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. To commemorate this event, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes was built in the fifth century, which was recently restored.
Sermons on High at the Mt. of Beatitudes
This modest hill near Tabgha was the site of the Sermon on the Mount. The Franciscans built the octagonal Church of the Beatitudes here in 1938, with each side representing one of the beatitudes. In 1964, Pope Paul VI visited the church and left his cloak here for permanent display. Pope John Paul II held a mass here in 2000, attended by thousands of Catholics.
It’s not possible to see all these sites in one day, so pilgrims may want to stay in a hotel nearby while enjoying the sites. Kibbutz Kinneret offers Ohalo Manor, which is situated on the shores of the lake. The nearby city of Tiberias and the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee are home to a number of hotels of varying styles and price ranges.