Congressman’s Holy Land Skinny-Dip Wasn’t Sacrilege

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By Lisa Beyer

The Israelis who live around and run the many restaurants, boating services and other tourist amenities around the Sea of Galilee must be having a good laugh over the Kevin Yoder scandal. The idea that a U.S. congressman could get in trouble for defiling the lake by swimming naked in it doesn't fit their idea of the Galilee at all.

U.S. press coverage of an after-dinner (and after-drinks) dip in the Galilee by a visiting delegation of Congressmen and staffers, in which Yoder stripped off all his clothes, has stressed the sanctity of the lake, as the place where the Bible says Jesus walked on water.

Anyone who has spent real time on the lake knows it doesn't have a sacred aura. I lived in Israel for nine years as a foreign correspondent and made numerous outings to the Kinneret (or "harp," as Israelis call it, for its shape). Certainly, dedicated Christian visitors can have a religious experience, by visiting a museum housing a boat that dates to the time of Jesus and sailing on a modern replica. But those things are for tourists.

Israelis use the lake, just as Yoder did, as a place to cool off. They swim in it; boat, water-ski and jet-ski on it; and sun on its beaches.  The beaches don't permit nudity, but Yoder can't have been the first swimmer to go au naturel.  The lake is surrounded by kibbutzim, collective communities generally populated by ultra-secular, liberal Israelis.

Yoder didn't use great judgment when he got naked in the presence of colleagues (he says it was dark and he wasn't near anyone), but his detractors ought to stop acting as if he streaked through the Vatican.

(Lisa Beyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at the Ticker.

-0- Aug/23/2012 16:25 GMT