Tiberias is a city in Northern Israel, set at the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was founded about 2,000 years ago, and continued to thrive in the subsequent periods, and to this day.

History of Tiberias

Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas around 20 CE. It was named “Tiberias” in honor of the emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD).  After the conquest and destruction of Jeruaslem in 70 CE, Tiberias developed to be the biggest and most important Jewish center in the Holy Land. The Jerusalem Talmud, one of the most important codes of Jewish Law, was compiled in Tiberias. Tiberias was also the home of the Sanhedrin, the court for Jewish Law. Later, in Tiberias, diacritics for Hebrew writing was developed (the Tiberian Hebrew). During the Crusaders period, Tiberias was the capital of the principality of Galilee, and in the 18th Century Tiberias became a self-governed city by an Arab Beduin named Daher el-Omar.

Tiberias Archaeological park

Tiberias’ center in Roman to Early Muslim times lies is an area that is south its cemetery today. Ongoing excavations have uncovered a theatre, bath house, public buildings, part of the city’s main street (Cardo Maximus), and a grand mosque. On a promontory above (Mount Berenice), a big church commemorating a stone anchor was uncovered.

Tiberias and the New Testament

“Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” (John 6:23)

Although mentioned in the New Testament only twice, the centrality of Tiberias is evident. In the Gospel of John, the Sea of Galilee is even called the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 21:1), alluding to the centricity of Tiberias. And yet the Gospels do not record Jesus visiting Tiberias, even once. It appears to be that Jesus deliberately avoided going to Tiberias, perhaps wishing to abstain from confrontation with local administration representatives such as police and army. He was, after all, trying to spread the message, of the kingdom of Heaven, in a culture that allowed only one kingdom, the Roman Empire. Today Tiberias holds a few Churches. Located in front of the Scottish Hotel, Saint Andrews Church belongs to church of Scotland. In the Southern end of the City The Greek-Orthodox maintains a monastery. In the heart of the modern city is a Catholic church devoted to Saint Peter.

Touring Tiberias

Today, Tiberias is known mostly for its hotels and a humble tourism center. The pedestrian mall (midrahov) along the waterfront promenade offers invites tour groups to local pubs and restaurants, spread amidst religious buildings such as Abulafia SynagogueSaint Peter’s Church, and the Ottoman-era (now abandoned) mosque. Its northern end leads to the remains of Tiberias’ Medieval fort, whose origins go back to the time of the Crusaders.

Visiting Sacred Jewish Tombs in Tiberias

tomb-of-rachel-tiberiasTiberias has quite a few tomb marks which by local tradition are the burials of various Jewish leading figures. Among them are the Tomb Mark of Maimonides, the Tomb Mark of Rabbi Akiva,  the Tomb Mark of his wife Rachel, the Tomb Mark of Rabbi Me’ir Ba’al Hanes, and the Tomb Mark of the Matriarchs.

Touring Tiberias can be combined in a guided tour of the North.

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