A Dry, White Season: Drop in Kinneret Water Level Liable to Harm Boat Tourism

The dropping water level of Lake Kinneret, which is now 5.58 meters below its maximum level, is placing operators of tourist boats in a predicament. "The situation is very bad - there is no port at which to anchor," Reuben Ben-Dori, the owner of Holyland Sailing, a company that offers boat trips on the Kinneret, said yesterday.

Ben-Dori added that "already now there are anchorages that we cannot reach. Only in two places can tourists still board, after we lengthened the approaches by dozens of meters. Soon that won't be enough either. If the dry winter continues, we'll be in trouble already this coming summer."

Ben-Dori added that "we have to deepen the ports in order to preserve this important tourist industry. About half a million tourists, most of them Christian pilgrims, sailed on the tour boats this year. On the boat they feel like Jesus on the Kinneret. The believers are given an opportunity to be alone with their group and their priest, and to pray quietly on the Kinneret. Sometimes the worshipers actually become ecstatic. In the past two years number of tourists to experience sailing on the Kinneret has increased by 50-60 percent. The government ministries have to understand that we mustn't lose that."

The Transportation Minister said in response that "the situation of a lack of water in the Kinneret is a phenomenon that repeats itself annually. The phenomenon worsens when there are a number of consecutive dry years. The problem has been known for decades and lasts for a limited number of months. The boat owners are aware of the issue and use alternative areas for boarding passengers when the problem intensifies. There is no intention of deepening the ports or building new piers, since they will be flooded when the water level rises once again. We have not received any complaint from tour companies regarding the boarding of the boats by tourists. The only complaints at present regards anchorage or storage - a subject that the Shipping and Ports Authority handles in the problematic months."