Part of a series of articles about the Holy Land
One of the most fascinating artifacts I saw in Israel was “the Jesus boat,” and one of the most fascinating people was the man who discovered it.
Yuval Lufan, 57, and his brother Moshe – second-generation fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar-grew up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The two discovered the boat just south of the kibbutz (commune), buried in the silt and mud of the shore, where a severe drought had exposed its edges. Yuval said that he had searched for it since he was a small boy.
“I have been looking for the boat since I was three or four,” he told us in broken English. That was about the time that he began painting pictures of the boat he wouldn’t find for decades.
Then, in 1986, with the Sea of Galilee low, “we think one day we will find it,” said Yuval. “We are walking day and night and night and day. We are crazy,” he laughed. “One day we saw the ribs of the boat sticking up.”
What happened next confirmed for the Lufan brothers that their find was special. “In one minute,” said Yuval, his weathered face breaking into a smile, “the rain started and the sun went outside. A big double rainbow formed. Then we thought, ‘She is something!’ ”.
Still, they had no idea of the antiquity of their find. “My father was a fisherman for many, many years, so I brought my old father to see the boat,” he recounted, thinking perhaps his dad would recognize the boat. But his father just looked at it and shook his head. “She is very, very old,” he told Yuval.
“If my father says she is old, she is old,” said Yuval, grinning.
At first, the father and sons wanted to keep the discovery all to themselves. “We are not talking to anybody because she is us. This is a treasure we are finding,” said Yuval.
But they reconsidered. “Because we are born in a kibbutz, we must share with everybody,” he added.
The excavation process began and so did the rain. The Israel Antiquities Authority and a host of volunteers began to excavate the boat, which measures 26.5 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 4.5 feet deep.
“The water will cover the boat,” recalled Yuval. “So we are digging 12 days and 12 nights. When we moved the boat, the water covered over the spot and you couldn’t tell it was ever there,” he said.
According to Yuval, finding and rescuing the boat was “miracle after miracle.”
And, although the brothers gave up their prized find, Yuval said the boat has made him rich in other ways. “I am from a kibbutz with no private property, but my wealth is that you come and visit,” he said.
The boat was encased at the site in a fiberglass and polyurethane cocoon to protect the spongy, weakened wood. It was then floated to the nearby Yigal Allon Museum, where, for nearly 10 years, it had been treated and preserved with a special type of wax. It is now ready to be moved to a prepared display area in the museum.
The boat was built primarily of cedar; the mediocre-quality wood indicates that the builders were probably poor-but excellent craftsmen, from the superior quality of the construction. The boat’s construction, radiocarbon-dating, and other factors dated it between the first centuries BC and AD – the time of Jesus.
What is more, the craft was discovered a few miles from Capernaum, the home of Peter and Amdrew, whom Jesus called to become “fishers of men.”
One can imagine the frightened apostles waking Jesus in the boat during the storm; or Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee to the shore where “a great crowd gathered around Him.”
Could this truly be the boat that Jesus and his apostles used 2,000 years ago?
“Show me that Jesus didn’t use this boat,” said Yuval. Then he smiled.
For more information call the Israel Ministry of Tourism InfoCenter at 1-888-77-ISRAEL or check out the website here.