Off the Beaten Track: 'The Jesus Boat'

The museum at Kibbutz Ginnosar houses an intact boat that may have been used by Jewish fisherman at time of Jesus.

Abandoned ship resurfaces at Nof Ginosar 311 (photo credit: The Jesus Boat Foundation)
Abandoned ship resurfaces at Nof Ginosar 311
(photo credit: The Jesus Boat Foundation)
Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.
North of Tiberias on Route 90, Kibbutz Ginnosar lies on the shores of Lake Kinneret amongst its banana fields, cowsheds and chicken houses. It was named for the ancient Jewish fishing village of the same name mentioned in ancient Jewish text as well as "Gennesaret" in the New Testament. In the spring of 1937 it was created as one of the famous Wall and Tower settlements in order to defend the area during the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, and soon became a base of operations for the famous Palmah commander Yigal Alon.
The wonderful museum about nature and man in the Galilee, named after Yigal Alon after his death in 1980, is situated between the kibbutz hotel, Nof Ginnosar, and the kibbutz itself. Mostly visited by school groups, this museum would be of interest to anyone due to the fact that its center piece is an intact boat that dates to the first century C.E. The discovery of this boat has turned the kibbutz from a tranquil farming community to a hub of Christian tourism. However, the boat itself, the museum and the "cruises" from the kibbutz offer something for everyone.
In 1986 during a period of terrible drought here in Israel, two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, were walking along the receding shoreline of the lake searching for archaeological treasures when they came across a piece of wood sticking out of the mud. As they started to expose the wood they were astounded to find that it was in the shape of a boat, buried near the shore and partly under water. Archaeologists were called in and soon the excavation was underway. As the wood became exposed to the air it began to rapidly disintegrate so special methods were developed to preserve the boat as it was being exposed to the elements while at the same time being in the midst of the lake. The museum carefully documents the rescue effort by archaeologists, scientists and the locals through an incredible display and video explanation just next to the exquisitely preserved, 2,000-year-old boat.
The boat has earned the nickname "The Jesus Boat" due to the fact that Ginnosar is right in the middle of the area known in scripture as the Ministry of Jesus, adjacent to the village of Migdal, hometown of Mary Magdalene and close to the traditional spot of Jesus walking on the water.
Indeed there is a strong possibility that this boat was used as a fishing boat by local Jewish fisherman at the time of Jesus. It also may have been used to fight the Romans in the Battle of Migdal, a naval battle made famous by Jewish general turned historian Josephus Flavius. The quotes from the New Testament and Josephus next to the boat itself explore the different possibilities and the display showing the type of wood used in the boat and the years devoted to preserving it are quite fascinating. This is a terrific roadside stop for anyone passing by the area, while the lunch and bathroom facilities are an added plus.

Joe Yudin became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Haifa in the Land  of Israel Studies and is currently studying toward a PhD.