There was no walking on the water this time around, but Israeli rescue services did manage to save a family trapped in the middle of a stormy Sea of Galilee on Sunday night.
The Sea of Galilee, or Kinneret, is a relatively small lake that doesn’t appear to be very threatening. Indeed, I had difficulty reconciling what I read in Matthew 14 with my personal experiences at the Kinneret, one of Israel’s most tranquil and popular places of recreation.
But, when the winds kick up, the Kinneret can become dangerously rough, as Shmuel Shabi and his family discovered, nearly at the cost of their lives.
“The winds became so strong that the boat overturned. We clung the side and hoped for a miracle,” Shabi told Israel’s Ynet news portal.
The group, which included two children, began to despair after more than an hour in the water. The sun was going down, and they had no way to call for help.
“One of the boys said to me, ‘I can’t hold on any longer,'” Shabi recalled. “We began to speak of faith, but I was losing hope that anyone would save us.”
After hours on the water and with the last light of the day long past, Shabi and the others began to resign themselves to the notion that they would die out there in the midst of the Sea of Galilee. “I began to say the customary Jewish prayer before death, as well as the Shema Israel,” he said.
It was then that the group, everyone of them in a daze from exhaustion, became aware that they were being picked out of the water by rescue services.
A spokesman for the authorities said that the mission to find and rescue the group had been exceedingly difficult, especially given that it was a very dark night. But, with the help of a thermal scanning device, they were eventually able to locate the group some four hours after their boat capsized.
The spokesman stressed that despite its small size, the Kinneret can be very dangerous when the winds are strong, particularly after dark, when it becomes nearly impossible to spot those stranded on the murky waters.