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Sea of Galilee & its Ancient Sites

Date of Submission: 30/06/2000
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Delegation Permanente d'Israel aupres de l'UNESCO
Coordinates: Lat. 32°48' N / Long. 35°36' E
Ref.: 1473

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The Sea of Galilee, -210 meters below sea level, is the main fresh water sea of the Rift Valley with unique forms and subterranean sources including hot water springs. The sea is home for 27 fish types, with many endemic. The water surface is 168 square kilometers while the perimeter is 55 kilometers, densely populated over the generations. The cities of Tiberias and Hammat Gader as well as Korazim, Kursi, Capernaum, and Tabgha surround the Sea of Galilee contributing to the area's unique cultural authenticity.


Korazim displays the remains of a Jewish town, mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, renowned for the good wheat grown there. In the New Testament Korazim is mentioned as a city condemned by Jesus, together with Bet-Saida and Capernaum. The earliest occupation of Korazim was in the first or second century CE and was located on the slope of the northern hill. Most of the remains visible today date to the third to fourth centuries CE. Many repairs and changes were carried out in the original buildings and in the synagogue as part of the restoration effort in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The first excavations of Korazim were conducted by Kohl and Watzinger in the early 1900's, as part of their survey of ancient synagogues. Excavations were renewed in the 1920's by The Hebrew University and the British Mandate Government's Department of Antiquities. Extensive work in the central quarter was carried out between 1962 and 1963 as a joint enterprise of the National Parks Authority and the Department of Antiquities and Museums.


Capernaum was a Jewish village in Second Temple and Byzantine times which today displays remains of a synagogue including stone friezes. According to Christian tradition, Capernaum was the birthplace of Peter and where Jesus preached and performed miracles. It is also the locale of a Franciscan monastery and a pilgrimage site.


Tabgha, found on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, is the site of the multiplication of loaves and fishes according to Christian tradition. The area is first mentioned by the pilgrim Egeria in the late fourth century CE who mentions a church on the site. It appears that a chapel was erected here in the fourth century and a church built toward the middle of the fifth.

Apart from their intrinsic artistic value, the mosaics from the 5th century church are unique from two aspects: they mark the introduction of the figurated pavement into the repertoire of church pavements in Israel, which until then, as far as is known, was exclusively geometric. The other unusual characteristic is the adaptation of a Nilotic landscape popular in Hellenistic and Roman art, to the fauna and flora of the Sea of Galilee.