Tiberias Tourist Attractions
Situation and characteristicsTiberias (Hebrew Teverya), 70km/45mi east of Haifa on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the newer parts of the town reaching up the slopes above the lake, is a holiday resort much frequented in the cooler months of the year.
Its hot springs have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times, and the town is now equipped with modern spa facilities.One of the four holy cities of the Jews, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed, Tiberias is rich in historical and religious interest, as are the towns and villages on the shores of the lake and in the surrounding area.HistoryHerod Antipas, son of Herod I and ruler of the country in the time of Jesus, founded Tiberias in A.D. 17 and named it after the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The new town lay between Hammat (Hammath) and Raqqat (Rakkath), which are mentioned in the Old Testament as fortified cities in the territory of the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19,35). Since it was built over the cemetery of Hammath it was regarded by pious Jews as unclean, and at first the town was inhabited only by pagans. Jesus himself, who did much of his teaching in this area, seems never to have come here. Herod Antipas's successor Agrippa II also had his residence in Tiberias, which he embellished with paved streets, a palace and a bath-house. After the end of the Jewish War, in A.D. 70, he moved his capital to Sepphoris.At the end of the second century Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai declared the town clean, and it then became the seat of the Sanhedrin. The head of the Sanhedrin, who had the style of Nasi (Prince), was the highest spiritual authority of Jewry until the office was abolished by the Emperor Theodosius II in 429. From the third century onwards Tiberias was the spiritual center of the Jews. It was now known as Teverya, a name which the Jews derived not from the Emperor Tiberius but from the Hebrew word tabur ("navel"), since they regarded the town as the navel of the world. It was here that the Mishnah (c. 200) and the Jerusalem Talmud (c. 400) were completed and the vocalic signs of the Hebrew alphabet were devised. Here too were - and are - the tombs of a number of famous rabbis.In the fourth century a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, Joseph of Tiberias, built churches in his native town and in other places, and there is known to have been a Christian bishop here in the sixth century. After the Persian conquest in 614 and the Arab conquest in 636 Jewish scholars joined the community in Babylon or went to Jerusalem. From 1099 to 1187 Tiberias lay within the dominions of Tancred, Prince of Galilee, and the kings of Jerusalem. Then in 1247 the Mameluke Sultan Baibars destroyed the town, which thereafter remained uninhabited until the time of the Ottomans (from 1517 onwards).In 1562 Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent granted the town to a Jewish refugee from Spain, Don Joseph Hanassi, whom he had previously created duke of the Greek island of Naxos, and his aunt Gracia Mendes. They established a Jewish state in Galilee under Ottoman overlordship, but this was short-lived. In the 17th century Tiberias fell into ruin, and was not reoccupied until the Druze emir Daher el-Amr rebuilt the town and its citadel in 1738 and resettled it with Jews. Soon afterwards, in 1765, a first group of Jewish immigrants from Poland also settled here. Many inhabitants lost their lives in an earthquake in 1837, but after the disaster Tiberias was once again rebuilt. Around 1940 the town had a population of 12,000, half of them Arabs and half Jews. Since 1948 the population has been entirely Jewish.
Tiberias consists of the old town, the large new district of Qiryat Shmuel to the north and the district of Hammat to the south with its hot springs. The principal streets of the old town - in which, however, there are few old buildings - are HaGalil Street and HaBannim Street, both running parallel to the shore of the lake.There is a very attractive lakeside promenade with numerous restaurants and cafes and magnificent views of the Sea of Galilee.
On the northern edge of the old town of Tiberias are an art center and a restaurant built over the remains of a Crusader castle which Daher el-Amr rebuilt in the local black basalt in 1738.
St Peter's Monastery
Going southeast from the crusader castle in Tiberias in the direction of the lakeside promenade, we pass the Franciscan monastery of St Peter, built in the second half of the 19th century over the remains of a Crusader castle. There is a beautiful cloister. The apse of the church projects like the bow of a ship - a reference to Peter's fishing-boat.
A few hundred meters south of the monastery in Tiberias, housed in a former mosque of about 1880, is the Municipal Museum, with a collection of archeological material from Tiberias and the surrounding area.
Greek Orthodox Monastery
Continuing south from the municipal museum on the lakeside promenade in Tiberias, we come to the Greek Orthodox Monastery. The present building was erected in 1862, but it had several predecessors, the earliest of which dated back to the third or fourth century.
Tomb of Maimonides
Some 300m/330yds from the north end of HaGalil Street in Tiberias are a number of old tombs, including that of the great philosopher and physician Maimonides (Rabbi Mose Ben Maimon, also known as Rambam after the initial letters of these names). Born in Córdoba in 1135, Maimonides left Spain because of religious persecution, went to Cairo and became Saladin's personal physician. There too he became a rabbi, and later the spiritual head of the Jews in Egypt. He wrote very influential commentaries on the Mishnah, and Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas thought highly of his philosophical work "Dalalat el-Hairin" ("Guide of the Doubters"). After his death in Cairo in 1204 his remains were taken to Tiberias.
Tomb of Yohanan Ben Zakkai
Near the Tomb of Maimonides in Tiberias is the tomb of Yohanan Ben Zakkai, who after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 founded a Jewish school in Yavne and transferred the seat of the Sanhedrin to that town.
Tomb of Rabbi Ben Akiba
In a new residential area in Tiberias, is the tomb of Rabbi Ben Akiba, who believed that Bar Kochba was the Messiah and was executed after his rising in A.D. 135. It is reached on a road which branches off the main road at the police station in the district of Qiryat Shmuel and runs south.
Map of Tiberias Attractions