The north of Israel is lush and fertile due to the almost magical transformation of this former swampland, brought about by Israeli science. It is cooler than the south in summer and can become quite cold in winter. This hilly forested region, the home of some of the country's most beautiful nature reserves, is also is the centre of Israel's agricultural activity. Many significant New Testament events took place here.
Tiberias is without peer in Israel as a water sports playground, especially in spring, autumn and winter. It is situated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Israel's only freshwater lake. The newer part of the city, with modern hotels and palm tree lined streets, roosts some 450 m. above the older part, where black basalt ruins of Moslem and Christian conquerors have a dignity all their own near the water's edge. Recently, the older part was renovated and today boasts three hotels, commercial centres and a two-kilometre promenade. People are early risers because there is so much to enjoy in the cool of the first light. As the sun rises across the waters over the distant Golan Heights, fishermen cast their nets from bobbing boats, and truck drivers set off with their frozen catch for the markets further inland. Before long the smoothly pebbled waterfront is alive with the roar of speedboats, water skiers and the more restful kayaks and rowing boats. You may wish to soak up the sun on rafts anchored further out or hire fishing and skin diving equipment at one of the many beaches with full facilities. The acme of pleasure, however, is to lunch on St. Peter's fish, served up on platters at open-air restaurants on the waterfront. This is the same species that doubled as a money box when, according to the Gospel of St. Matthew, St. Peter paid his taxes with a shekel found in the mouth of a fish.
There is a more serious side to Tiberias. It is one of the four cities holy to Judaism (the others are Jerusalem, Hebron and Zefat), and it is the last resting place of many a famous rabbi. The cooler hours of the afternoon are the best for a walk to the old cemetery to see the tombs of Maimonides and Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai. A bus takes you further uphill to the shrine of Rabbi Akiva. Then to Hamat, only 20 minutes south along the lakeside by foot, to see what is left of the earliest synagogues near the therapeutic wonders of the Hot Springs. Adjacent to the springs, up the hill, is the tomb of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness. For sites around and about the Sea of Galilee take Route No. 17 for a circular tour of the lake. Reach the tail end of Route No. 11 for sites lying above Tiberias; Route No. 20 leads you north for many interesting hours of sightseeing.
Tzfat is set high in the Galilean hills. The area around Tzfat is wonderful for hiking, and is known for its magnificent views. From the top of Mount Meron you can see as far as Syria and Lebanon. The centre of Jewish mysticism (Kabballah), Tzfat has a mysterious appeal for travellers of all religions. Its doors are painted blue to ward off the evil eye and its winding streets are cobbled. Wander around the Artist's Quarter and pop into the galleries and the craft market. If you feel like exercising your brain, there are lectures on Kaballah; if not, you can join a guided walk of the city or hike in the surrounding area. The Synagogue Quarter has many interesting synagogues, each with a history attached. There are some good restaurants, a swimming pool and a leisure centre, and the occasional English movie is shown. Overall, the atmosphere here is quiet and religious, so don't expect to find rollicking nightlife in Tzfat. Everything is closed on Shabbat.