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The Arabic and Aramaic poets called it “the Bride,” “the Handmaiden of the Hills,” and “the Silver Woman.” The ancient Hebrews called it “the Harp,” in honor of the soothing harplike sounds of its waves, and because it roughly resembles the shape of an ancient harp. That’s the name that stuck, with Israelis still calling the Sea of Galilee Kinnor, or Kinneret (both words for harp in Hebrew), as it is popularly known. According to one lexicographer, an ancient sage wrote: “God created the seven seas, but the Kinneret is His pride and joy.” It’s a marvelous lake, its surface constantly changing during the day. In summer the Sea of Galilee’s waters are sparkling and almost bathtub-warm; if you find a tranquil, beautiful beach for a swim, you’ll emerge from the lake feeling refreshed, soothed, and cleansed.

Some 210m (689 ft.) below sea level, the Sea of Galilee is 21km (13 miles) long from the place where the Jordan flows in at the north to where it empties out in the south. It was here that Jesus preached to the crowds and fed them by multiplying the bread and fishes; it is also where he restored the sick and maimed. Today, parts of the sea are filled with speedboats and water-skiers; other parts are as serene and mysterious as in ancient times.

Kinneret’s waters are a vast reservoir of sardine, mullet, catfish, and the unusual combfish. They are the same fish once caught by the disciples, and they are caught in the same manner today, though some of the kibbutzim have developed careful methods of farming fish.