Wet winter brings Sea of Galilee to highest level in two decades
After what could have been Israel’s final rainfall of the season last week, the Sea of Galilee rose to the fullest level it has been in almost 20 years — only four inches shy of its capacity.
Thanks to two consecutive rainy winters, a five-year drought has been broken and the lake’s level has made a dramatic recovery. The lake hit an all-time low in 2017 when it sunk to 698 feet below sea level. It is now at 685 feet below.
“It’s full of water and we are very excited,” said Idan Greenbaum, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council. “Unfortunately, because of the virus, it’s empty.”
Despite this miraculous rise in Israel’s largest natural water source, known in Hebrew as the Kinneret, few people have been able to enjoy the beautifully full lake. Normally a pilgrimage destination for Christian tourists to visit the sites where Yeshua ministered, the region has been affected by global and national lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
Interestingly enough, the higher water level is creating other problems around many of these sites, some operated by churches.
“Days of heavy storms have damaged the banks, part of the work of this period is to bring new land and rebuild them. This year the level of the lake has increased by four meters, and we have to reckon with it,” said Brother Luca Panza, Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land, guardian of the Capernaum convent.
Nevertheless, the church and other tourist sites are awaiting the crowds they hope will come sooner rather than later.
Haim Statyahu, general manager of Ein Gev tourism, remains optimistic and said tour groups are making reservations from the fall.
“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It won’t be long, and we will see the pilgrims return.”