Journey to Israel - Lunch by the Lake

After an exciting morning of exploring, it was finally lunchtime. A ten-minute drive from the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes brought us to Saint Peter’s Restaurant.

The establishment is named for a special breed of tilapia that inhabits the Sea of Galilee. After a St. Peter’s fish lays eggs, she gathers them in her mouth. The eggs remain there until they hatch. The fish commonly gathers other materials from the bottom of the lake in its mouth. Fishermen may find bottle caps, stones, or coins in these fish’s mouths.

This unique trait sheds new light on Jesus’ instructions to Peter in Matthew 17:24-27. After the temple tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid the tax or not, Jesus sent Peter on a fishing trip. The first fish he hooked would have a shekel in its mouth—enough to pay the tax on behalf of both Peter and Jesus. Those instructions seem strange to anyone not acquainted with the habits of this fish, commonly caught in the Sea of Galilee. We were anxious to satisfy our hunger by feasting on this unique fish.

We paraded across the wide parking lot, through an archway, down the steps, and along the Sea of Galilee. Up ahead lay the restaurant.

Several long tables were reserved for our group. We quickly found seats and filled our glasses. Most restaurants we visited in Israel provide cold water in a glass bottle in the middle of the table. Many of the vessels resemble wine bottles. Were we drinking “white wine” or water?

A paper table liner displayed the menu. Waiters came to our tables and called out each option. We raised our hands to order. The system was simple, but amid the chaos of conversation, it was easy to miss the option you wanted. The girl seated to my left completely missed ordering. We had to chase down the waiter to request her meal.

The st. peter fish fried was a whole fish, including scales, fins, bones, and head. Only a few members of our group ordered it. Could we order fried fillets? Our server quickly dismissed that possibility, though it would have been popular. Most of us opted for the st. peter fillet in the oven. A few requested the chicken breast grilled. A couple others ordered the kebab, which was like a long meatball grilled on a skewer.

We lined up at the salad bar to load our plates with appetizers. A variety of salads, hummus, olives, and pita bread took the edge off our appetites as we awaited the main course.

Soon the waiters appeared with plates, calling out the name of the entree each one held. I raised my hand to claim an order of baked tilapia. The plate held two large fish fillets. Roasted potatoes, shredded cabbage, and a lemon wedge rounded out the meal. Taking the first bite of fish, I was delighted at how tender and flavorful it was. Before long, my plate was empty, and my stomach was satisfied.

Meanwhile, plates of fresh dates had appeared on the table. What a sweet and healthy dessert!

The waiter came by offering coffee. Even though no cream or sugar were in sight, I accepted a small cup of the strong brew. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the coffee was sweet and spicy. I didn’t really miss the cream and sugar.

After our meal, we had an extra fifteen minutes to explore the area. We strolled down the short path to the edge of the Sea of Galilee. I wish we had thought to bring along our Crocs so we could easily wade in the water. We settled for dipping our fingers in the lake.

Beneath the surface were plenty of small pebbles. The shore nearby was littered with beautiful shells.

Later that afternoon, we would enjoy a boat ride on the lake. But first, we were heading off to explore Jesus’ base of operations during his ministry—the town of Capernaum.

The St. Peter’s Fish incubates eggs in its mouth. What is the strangest animal habit you have heard of? Please share in the comments.