The Sea of Galilee is Israel's largest freshwater lake, approximately 53 kilometers (33 miles) in circumference, about 21 km (13 miles) long, and 13 km (8 miles) wide. At 211 meters below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest point in the world after the Dead Sea.

The lake is also known on modern maps as Lake Galilee or Lake Tiberias. The name Galilee refers to the region of Galilee in which it is located. In modern Hebrew it is known as Yam Kinneret (the name may originate from the Hebrew word kinnor ('harp') - which the lake's shape resembles).

The Sea of Galilee is entirely within Israeli territory, although Syria claims its northeastern shore as part of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria during the Six Day War.

The lake is Israel's main source of water. Israel also supplies water from the lake to the West Bank and to Jordan (under the terms of the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace).

It is fed by underground springs, but its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south. It is still noted, as in New Testament times, for its rich fish stocks, and in today's restaurants, "St. Peter's Fish" (tilapia) is very popular.

Because of its situation deep in the Jordan Rift Valley and surrounded by hills, it is prone to sudden violent storms; hence the New Testament story about Jesus calming the storm. Indeed, the main feature of the lake seems to be its ever-changing character.

Table of contents
1 Antiquity
2 New Testament times
3 Modern times


The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris which linked Egypt with the northern empires. The Greeks, Hasmoneans, Herodians, and Romans founded flourishing towns and settlements. The first-century historian Flavius Josephus was so impressed by the area that he wrote, "One may call this place the ambition of Nature."

New Testament times

Much of the ministry of Jesus Christ occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee. In those days, there was a continuous ribbon development of settlements and villages around the lake and plenty of trade and ferrying by boat across the lake. The gospels of Mark (1:14-20) and Matthew (4:18-22) describe how Jesus recruited four of his apostles from the shores of Lake Galilee; the fishermen Peter and his brother Andrew, and the brothers John and James. Jesus calming the storm and walking on water is recorded as taking place on the Sea of Galilee.

Modern times

In 1909 Jewish pioneers built the first cooperative farming village, Kibbutz Degania. Today, the Sea of Galilee is a popular holiday resort. The many historical and spiritual sites around the lake, especially its main town Tiberias, are visited by millions of local and foreign tourists annually.

Israel's National Water Carrier, built in 1964, transports water from the lake to the population centers of Israel, and is the source of most of the country's drinking water. Increasing water demand and some dry winters have resulted in stress on the lake and a decreasing water line, at times to dangerously low levels.