Posted by: Tommy | November 3, 2010

Sea of Galilee

Today, the actuality of Israel started to match our expectations and the reason we came here.  It was also the most tired I’ve been in a long time.

We left Haifa on Sunday by bus to Tiberias.  There’s not much in Tiberias, so we used the day to do some trip planning, laundry and talking to parents on Skype.  We went to bed early, because we were getting up early.
Tiberias is not that interesting, but it is the largest town near the Sea of Galilee, which is biblically very important.  It was on the shores of this sea (lake, really) that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the crowd.  It was in this lake that Simon Peter was called to join Jesus’s disciples.  Peter’s house was in Capernaum and Jesus used to teach at the synagogue located near it.  Outside of Jerusalem, the area around the Sea of Galilee is probably home to the most interesting of the Christian sites (and sights) in Israel.
The Sea (again, mostly a lake) has a 55km (33 miles) perimeter.  One popular way to see the sights and the lake is to rent a bike for $20 and bike around the edge – and we’re crazy, so we decided to try that.  Again, that’s 33 miles.  We got up early and set off at 7am.

Our first view of the Sea of Galilee

It was a cool morning, the sun was rising over the lake and we were cruising on our bikes.  The first site we got to was the site of the loaves and fishes in Tabgha.  As with most Christian sites here, a church has been built over the spot of the original miracle.  In fact, there have been three churches built in this same spot, the current one in 1932.  It seems the Romans and Persians tore down the previous two and the ruins weren’t discovered until 1932.  Under the altar is a rock, which is supposedly the very rock upon which Jesus laid the bread and fish, prayed over it and began the miraculous distribution.

The rock of Jesus's miracle

About 200 yards up the road was the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter.  This church is built on the spot where Jesus announced that Peter was the Rock upon which the church would be built.  I didn’t get to go in because shorts are evil and Anna was a harlot with bare shoulders.
Another 100 yards down the road, we came to the Mount of the Beatitudes.  This is where Jesus chose his apostles.  The one thing that struck us about this site is that there was (as there frequently is in Israel) trash everywhere.  You’d think that a place where Jesus (regarded as either the Messiah or at least a very important prophet in the 3 major religions) made one of his most important speeches might be worthy of trash pickup.  Nope.  There’s 3 or 4 bales of barb wire just laying around.

Great views, as long as you ignore the ground

Another mile or so down from Tabgha was Caphernaum.  Several important things stand in Capernaum.  There were signs everywhere in Capernaum banning shorts and bared shoulders.  Anna actually was denied admission because of her sleevlessness, but I got in with my shorts.  I explored alone for awhile, then went back outside and took off my shirt so Anna could see Capernaum.  I’m sure shirtless guys standing outside is much holier than having a lady with bare shoulders inside.  (Aside: if you paid a lot of money and were with an official tour group, you could have bare shoulders.  If you’re the poor idiot who decided to bike 33 miles instead of ride the air conditioned bus, you can stay outside with your whoreish shoulders).

Capernaum was small, but very powerful.  The have preserved the walls of Simon Peter’s house (with a giant, very modern church built over it – but with a glass floor so you can see the walls of Peter’s house very clearly).  About 30 yards away is the White Synagogue from the 4th century, which is surrounded by shorter walls that  used to be part of the synagogue of Jesus’s era and one in which he would have preached.  That was the second most exciting thing I saw today, after the Hotel Aviv.

The White Synagogue

In case any visitors got confused about the importance of Capernaum

Leaving Capernaum, we had a bike malfunction.  Or, Anna did.  Her brakes were locking up her wheels.  You had to kick the tire to the side to make the brakes let go, but they inevitably locked up again 50 feet later.  We asked a tourbus driver for help and he was very kind and did his best.  It was better for about a mile, then it started again.  Anna rode (or mostly walked with her bike) for quite a ways until we found a store with a phone to call the bike rental place and they sent a repairman.  We waited about an hour; when he arrived he saw the problem immediately and set about repairing it.  He was done in about 2 minutes and went on his way.  His solution worked for at least 3 miles, maybe 4. ( If anyone is thinking I should have let her ride my bike and shared in the walking – we tried but my bike was too big.  I would ride ahead a little ways and wait for her to catch up, or sometimes we’d walk together).
After the bike had broken for a 3rd time, she decided to give up and take the bus home.  Inexplicably, the bus costs 6 shekels ($2) for a rider, but 95 shekels ($30) if you have a bike.  Yeesh.  The damn thing only cost 60 shekels to rent. In America, if your bike breaks 3 times and it costs you $30 to take the bus and get back after a miserable day, you surely don’t pay the $20 for the bike and you might get them to give you the $30 for bus fare.  In Israel, they say “Sorry” and that’s that.
I was enjoying the views of the lake and the first physical excercise (other than the endless walking we do) of the trip (and didn’t want to pay 95 shekels for busfare) so I decided to man up and finish the 33 miles on my own.  Anna had made it about halfway, 27km down, 28 to go.  I left her at about 2:15 in the afternoon and rode the remaining 17 miles in just under 2.5 hours.  I didn’t stop to see sites (well, I took a picture of a site but didn’t go inside).

According to our book, "There is no actual evidence that suggests this is the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. But Yardenit has a well-stocked gift shop and ramps leading into the water, which make it convenient to believe it is so. Okay, then.

I didn’t use the bathroom anywhere.  I just rode.  And rode.  And rode.  We have a friend, Kristina Martin – who is a triathlete and the daughter of a pastor and she would have loved today.  But I felt that 33 miles may have been a little ambitious.
For one thing, we were on mountain bikes.  I didn’t know it made such a difference, until I was pedalling furiously about 9 km from Tiberias and got passed by a lady on a road bike who was very leisurely tapping her pedals every once in a while.  I was wearing sandals – not ideal – and the bikes were topped with the worst seats I’ve ever sat on.  Our butts were both killing us less than a mile from the start.  I hope I never have to say this again – but I was thankful when my crotch went numb.  It was just miserable.  It is killing me as I sit on my bed, writing this post.
In the end, there was a lot to complain about.  95 shekels for a bus ride, for example.  But it was a great day.  When I finally arrived at Hotel Aviv (see, that’s what Capernaum was only the 2nd most exciting thing I saw today) I felt it was really an accomplishment.  We’d spent the day walking (or biking) where Jesus walked 2000 years ago.  We tried to find a closer connection to our faith.  And we tried to do something bold, something we certainly aren’t used to doing.  And we made it.  We survived and will be stronger tomorrow.  Smellier today, but stronger tomorrow.  Now I’m exhausted.  Good night.



  1. Sorry that you had a bike malfunction, but then again Jesus didn’t ride a bike either! But to be able to walk where Jesus performed so many miracles — what an awesome thing to do. I am so jealous!

    I am glad that y’all challenged yourselves to do something that you would normally not do and then accomplish it. 33 miles is a long way — I think I would have insisted on the bus from the get go, but know you got more out of your day from actually biking/walking on such sacred grounds. We cannot wait to read about your next adventure.

    Sending lots of love,


  2. Now you are seeing the Israel that I long to see. Peter’s house, his rock, where he was called by Jesus — wow! The Sea of Gailee. I cannot imagine how moving it would be to be there. No more bikes — soak it up!

  3. Broken bike; busted butts; blessed souls

  4. I have tears from LOL and from the last most touching statement about being where Jesus walked. I SO admire you both and am in awe of your adventureous spirit! God bless you & Anna! xoxoxo, kita

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