Mini-Explainer: What's So Special About the Sea of Galilee?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 20 2012 9:50 AM

Mini-Explainer: What's So Special About the Sea of Galilee?

Arab-Israelis enjoy spring water in Tabgha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel on Sept. 2, 2011.

Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

As we told you earlier this morning, a late-night, possibly alcohol-fueled skinny-dipping adventure in the Sea of Galilee last summer is making things a bit uncomfortable for Rep. Kevin Yoder and his fellow Republicans this morning.

We might not know precisely what inspired the Kansas Republican to cast off his worldly possessions and jump into Israel's largest freshwater lake (although an educated guess would probably involve the booze), but we do know that the sea, the biggest freshwater lake in Israel, is a Christian holy site. Why exactly? 


The Sea of Galilee shows up in all four Gospels, where it served as a backdrop for a pretty sizable number of Jesus' greatest hits. In the Old Testament, freshwater wells often served as significant meeting places because pretty much every household had to go there. It was also a great place to meet women. The freshwater lake, too, seems to have similarly been a center of life in the region—a really great place to get a large audience with minimum effort, perfect for an itinerant preacher. 

When Jesus walked on water, he was on Galilee. He recruited apostles Simon, Andrew, James, and John by nearly sinking their boats with incredible hauls of fish. The Sermon on the Mount and the Feeding of the Multitudes are usually pegged by geographically inclined Christians to the shores of the lake, too. In fact, the GOP group was in Tiberias during the incident, which doubles as a resort city and a base of operations for faithful Holy Land tourists looking to check out the sites of many of the best-known miracle stories.

Yoder has since apologized for "any embarrassment" caused by his plunge into Galilee, which, according to Politico, led to a 30-minute rebuke from Rep. Eric Cantor the next day. The group of lawmakers were on a tour of Christian and Jewish holy sites with the American Israel Educational Foundation, a trip that is something of a chimera of religious pilgrimage and U.S.-Israel bonding time. The group met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 22 2014 12:30 PM Turkey Just Got Forty-Six Hostages Back From ISIS. How Did That Happen?
Sept. 22 2014 12:44 PM The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Sept. 22 2014 1:10 PM One Photographer’s Beautiful and Devastating Response to Climate Change
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.