Boat on the Galilee

Inside the Beit Yigal Alon are two small museums.  One is in memory of Yigal Alon, and the other houses the ancient boat for which the center has become famous.  There are two films available that detail the discovery of the boat and its preservation.

Yigal Allon was born in 1918 -1980 in Mt Tabor. He was the commander of the IDF and a politician. He was also a member of this kibbutz for more than 40 years. He struggled for co-existence in the Galil and hosted meetings each spring for Arab and Jews who met by the eucalyptus trees for food and art, of which the stone arch and a mosaic bench outside are examples.

Practical Information:

When you register to watch the film, you should specify the length that you wish to watch as there is a longer and shorter version, shown in two different locations.  The shoter one is shown in the boat museum, and the longer in the Yigal Alon Museum. NB it has subtitles in 8 different languages and that there is a charge for the films. 

Historical and archeological information:

In 1986 at the time when the water level of the lake was very low after a number of drought years, a Roman era boat was found between Ginosar and the important ancient town of Magdala. The boat is 9m long, 2.5 m wide, and 1.25 m high. It is composed of 12 different types of wood, reminding us of the 12 disciples of Jesus, or the 12 tribes of Israel.  There are trees planted outside to show us these different varieties.

The boat was discovered by Moshe and Yuval Lufan, fishermen from the kibbutz who were amateur archaeologists.  They had dreamed for many years of finding something of significance in the area.  One brother found a nail that was attached to a wooden beam. They continued investigating after they realized that they had discovered an old wooden boat. Archeologists were called in and they realized that this was a big find. 

The boat had been preserved by the water, but now that it was exposed to the elements, it was a race against time to ensure that the boat did not disintegrate. They had to learn how to move and then preserve it. The decision was made by the experts to cover the boat with synthetic material and then to transport and study it. The preservation took until the year 2000 when the boat was brought to a specially created room. The process of extracting the boat from the mud without damaging was challenging and lasted 12 days and nights. 

There is a replica of the boat outside of the room, showing the material that was sprayed onto the boat to enable it to be lifted out of the water.  After this it was placed in special water with chemicals as well as a wax that replaced the water that had been lodged within the wood. The upper parts of the boat are missing beams and it is thought that it probably sank quickly which is how it was preserved. The original boat must have been a large sailing boat of about 10m long.

The dating of the boat was determined by the construction method used.  In Pre-Byzantine times, boats were built by first building the body and then the skeleton. After that time until now, the process is reversed with the skeleton built first.  A clay cooking pot and an oil lamp from the Herodian period were also discovered, however it is possible that they did not sink together. The boat is dated from the first century BC to the first century AD at the latest and was repaired many times. There were twelve different types of wood used on the boat including those from the repairs.  This could be very significant if we consider the twelve disciples, the twelve tribes etc!  The types of wood are listed in the museum on a diagram of the boat, and the same twelve trees are also planted outside by the entrance. Cedar was used for the body and oak for the skeleton.  

The numerous repairs show that the boat was in use for a long period of time. It is assumed that the owner had meager means. The owner of the boat is unknown but was definitely in use during the second Temple period. This is the time when Jesus was in the Galilee, and many of his disciples were from this area. It is not known if Jesus actually was on this boat, yet it is possible! The boat is assumed to have been used to transport people since it could have held up to 12 at a time. It is very possible that it was used as a fishing boat, and that it was deliberately sunk due to its age.

There also are theories that this boat could have sunk during the Great Revolt. There was very bloody marine battle on the Sea of Galilee between the Romans and the Jews from Magdala. Josephus stated that there had been a battle in September AD 67 when the Romans chased the Jews into the lake. Some many Jews were killed that the sea was said to have turned red. 

This would be a more logical option if the boat had been discovered in the center of the lake and not at the bay where it was found.  

On the wall there is a suggested reconstruction of the boat. This is based on a mosaic floor that was found in the first century synagogue in nearby Magdala.  It is assumed that the mosaic reflected reality. 

Biblical account: 

  • Jesus sent Peter to catch a fish in the sea to get a coin from its mouth in order to pay the temple tax. (Matt. 17.27)
  • Fish and bread are presented as basic food (Matt. 7.10; 14.19 the miracle of the five loaves and two fish)
  • Jesus taught from Simon’s boat a little away from the shore and then commanded the fishermen to cast their nets once more. The fishermen caught a lot of fish after many fruitless attempts on that day. (Matt. 5.1-6)
  • Jesus calmed the storm. (Matt 8.23-24; Mark 4.37; Luke 8.22-25).
  • Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew to be fishers of men. (Matt. 4.19; Mark 1.17)



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