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Bathers enjoying the waters of Lake Kinneret yesterday had a chance to observe a highly unusual sight: a group of Native Americans, Maoris and Inuit sailing past them in a canoe.

The visitors were part of a group of 450 members of tribal peoples who are currently visiting Israel for a conference at the Nof Ginosar hotel. They come from countries as varied as the United States, New Zealand, Finland, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Canada and several African nations.

Most of them belong to evangelical churches and have a high regard for Israel and for Judaism. They are seeking to maintain their evangelical faith while also trying to preserve their native heritage and culture, which European colonizers largely destroyed.

The group conducted ceremonies that included traditional costumes and tribal dances. They also toured traditional pilgrimage sites and met with kibbutz members in the Galilee area. Yesterday, the Native American contingent held a special purification ceremony at Ginosar, in which they placed hot rocks inside a special cleansing tent and then entered the tent to purify their bodies through perspiration.

The pilgrims who traversed the Kinneret yesterday in a canoe - the vessel was built to order in Canada - said they hoped the lake will fill up with water during the coming winter.

In describing her guests, Michal Amir Ben Asher of the hotel's management said: "This is a very interesting meeting of cultures. It's very colorful. We get groups of pilgrims all the time here, but this is a unique group indeed."