Naked US Sea of Galilee swimmer Kevin Yoder forced to apologise to constituents


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The Independent US

A US congressman has had to apologise to his Christian constituents after being caught swimming naked in the holy Sea of Galilee while on a fact-finding mission to Israel.

Republican Kevin Yoder, 36, from Kansas, has not been charged in the August 18, 2011, incident when he and about 20 other politicians and staff jumped into the water. He was the only one among them who wore no clothes.

"I feel incredibly remorseful that I have caused embarrassment to my constituents and I have caused folks who believe in me to be disappointed," he said.

Some Christians consider the Sea of Galilee a holy site because they believe Jesus walked on water there. Swimming in the lake is permitted but public nudity is not allowed, according to an Israeli police spokesman.

"If someone walks around the beach naked, that's an offence," he said, adding that no official complaint had been made against Mr Yoder. He would not rule out charges, saying it was possible even a year after the offence was committed.

"If that kind of incident takes place and someone makes an official compliant, we'll investigate," he said.

The Politico website reported that the FBI opened an investigation into the trip but did not explain why. Mr Yoder and his chief of staff, Travis Smith, said neither they nor any of their staff had talked to federal investigators.

"The gravity of the situation and the actions I've taken are not lost on me, and I feel certainly regret at what has occurred, and I just want to apologise to my constituents for a momentary lapse in judgment," Mr Yoder said.

He said it was dark and he was in the water for only about 10 seconds.

"Part of the reason I made that decision at that moment was there was really nobody in the vicinity who could see me," he said. "I dove in, hopped right back out, put my clothes on and, regardless, that was still not the behaviour people expected out of their congressman."

The August 13-21 trip was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charity whose mission is to provide grants for educational programs and conferences and to educate politicians and influential people about the importance of the US-Israel relationship.