Tourists flock to converted Galilee kibbutz

Luxury resorts crowds mingle with Christian pilgrims

24 November, 16:53

    The site of Jesus' baptism created by the Kenneret kibbutz The site of Jesus' baptism created by the Kenneret kibbutz

    (ANSAmed) - TIBERIAS (GALILEE), NOVEMBER 24 - The dream of a land of kibbutzim - the plural of kibbutz in Hebrew - filled with proud, rebellious young pioneers abiding by socialist collectivism faded long ago.

    Nevertheless, many kibbutzim along the shores of lake Tiberias have been converted into tourist resorts attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and is yet another reason - alongside the many religious ones - for trips to the Galilee. The first kibbutz to be transformed into a hotel was Ginofar, a few kilometers from Magdala, in 1964. The inhabitants bade farewell to the collective life, shared dorms for children and atheism to open a resort offering kosher food for business motives, ANSAmed was told by the current director of the complex, 62-year-old Roni Manor. Ginofar is now a luxury hotel boasting 135,000 guests per year including 6,000 Italians. Employees include Arabs, Druze, Bedouin and Israelis. Around the lake, penned in by basalt hills to the west and the Golan Heights to the east, are tourist resorts dotting the areas between churches and monasteries marking where Jesus is said to have preached. The Kinneret kibbutz, where many of Israel's founding fathers were born, has gone so far as to open a new site for the place of Jesus's baptism on the River Jordan, since the historic one lies in Palestinian territory and is inaccessible due to military reasons. The facilities resemble a luxury recreational center with showers, dressing rooms and white robes for the hundreds of pilgrims - especially Evangelists and Protestants - wading into a section of the River Jordan. There is also a restaurant and an enormous souvenir shop that sells everything from wooden crosses to Golan wines and Dead Sea products. For those who would instead like a taste of the socialism of earlier years there is the Sha'ar Hagolan kibbutz, where egalitarian, secular principles are followed and in which members receive monthly budgets and not diversified budgets.

    Rabbis are strictly prohibited from entering, though after much debate the guesthouse has agreed to serve kosher food. Surrounded by palm, banana and eucalyptus tress, as well as huge, mysterious South African plants, visitors pay for their stay instead of working the fields or cleaning bathrooms, as guests once did. Kibbutz tourism flanks and mingles with the large numbers of Christian pilgrims that come from around the world to relive memories of Jesus's life in Caparnaum, said to be Peter's birthplace, Tabgha, where the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is said to have occurred, and the Mount of Beatitudes, among other religious sites. On the eastern and less-visited part of the lake, Israeli archaeologists have restored an evocative Christian basilica from the 6th century, built where the Gospels claim Jesus performed his first miracle among non-Jews. In the ancient village Gerasa, he is thought to have saved a man possessed by evil spirits by transforming them into crazed pigs that threw themselves in the lake and drowned. (ANSAmed).

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