Friday, August 24, 2012

Swimming in the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee)

One of my fondest memories of a family trip to Israel in 1992 was caught in a photograph taken by my wife Laura, showing me and my son Nathan treading water off a diving pier on a beach at the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) with my three daughters, Sara, Esther and Elise all caught in midair as they jumped off the pier into the water. I hasten to add that all of us were wearing swimsuits.

Unfortunately, that photo is not yet digitalized, so this photo of children enjoying a swim in the Kinneret must suffice.

Now, we will assume that these children are all wearing swimsuits.  However, 100 years ago, when swimsuits were less universal, it is likely that they would not have been wearing swimming trunks.

So why did it recently become a mini-scandal and a topic for jokes on late-night television when a Republican Congressional Representative took an alcohol-inspired midnight nude swim in the Kinneret?   I think part of the reason was the location.  Americans, especially American Christians, naturally associate the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, who the New Testament says preached on its banks and recruited his disciples from its fishermen, and where Christians believe that he reappeared to them following his crucifixtion and resurrection.  [In the spirit of full disclosure, and to avoid possible misunderstanding by the reader, the Kosher Hedgehog is not a Christian and does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.]

However, people must realize that the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, is a beautiful fresh-water inland sea that is a major source of Israel's domestic water supply and is a major recreational center.  People fish in it, windsurf in it, swim in it, and picnic and vacation near it (including the imbibing of alcoholic beverages).  Historically, throughout the millenia and probably during the lifetime of Jesus, much of that swimming was done without the benefit of clothing.  That is not a sacrilege.  It is not a scandal.  It is life.

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