The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. In Hebrew it is known as lake Kinneret, from the Hebrew word for harp, since the flat western shore and curving eastern shore resemble the shape of the instrument. The lake provides 50% of Israel’s drinking water and is piped all over the country. Today as in antiquity, the main economic activities of the region are agriculture and fishing. Since Byzantine times, it has also been a place of pilgrimage and tourism. Fifteen harbors from the time of Jesus have been discovered. Today “St Peters Fish,” also known as Tilapia, are fished commercially from the lake for tourist consumption. The name “St. Peter” references a New Testament story in which Jesus instructs Peter to pay the temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish.
The largest city of the Galilee, Tiberias, is located on the Western shore of the lake. Along the shores there are many beaches, villages, kibbutzim, churches, hotels and resorts. Most of Jesus’s ministry in the Galilee and miracles performed there, according to historical and biblical sources, took place in the regions surrounding the lake, including the famous walk on the water, and the miracle of loaves and fish.
In summertime, especially weekends, the beaches are crowded by Israelis from all over the country, seeking refuge from the heat, chilling or making barbeque in the abundant shade of eucalyptus trees. Many public beaches also offer a camping option for a small fee.