Tiberias is a city in the Galilee, Northern District of Israel, located in the north-east of the country, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Galilee, also called the Tiberias Sea). The city is one of the four holy cities of Judaism, along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed.
The “Old Town” streets and alleys are narrow and winding, while the old black basalt houses offer unique charm to the panorama.
Tens of thousands of people flock to Tiberias every year to visit national shrines: the tombs of Rambam, the great Middle Ages Jewish philosopher who died in Cairo and was buried in Tiberias in 1404; Rabbi Johanan Ben-Zakai and Rabbi Akiva, executed by the Romans after the Bar Kochba revolt.
No less beautiful are the Greek Orthodox Church of the Twelve Apostles, the ruins of a synagogue (VI century) in the area of hot springs, as well as the remains of the ancient Jewish city of Hamat Tiberias (I-IV centuries A.D.).
Located at the outlet of the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee, Yardanit is a traditional baptismal site in the waters of the sacred river. A few kilometers north of Tiberias along the Sea of Galilee is the famous Capernaum, in which Jesus lived and preached for some time. Halfway between Tiberias and Capernaum, in the kibbutz Ginosar on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, there is a museum of an ancient boat dating back to the time of Jesus Christ.
According to Josephus Flavius, Tiberias was built in 17 B.C. by Herod Antipa in honor of the emperor Tiberius, in the best and most beautiful part of Galilee. Tiberias became the country’s main spiritual center after the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem.
– Herod Antipas made Tiberias his residence, for which he built a magnificent palace, temple, amphitheater, and surrounded the city with a wall. There was also another reason why the rulers of Galilee loved to live here: near the town was a healing mountain stream. Since the surrounding area was covered with ancient tombs, which were torn down during the construction of houses, the Jews considered the city unclean, were afraid to settle in it, and at first, it had an utterly pagan character. For the Jews, Herod built a large synagogue; in its premises, two generations later there took place the rebellious meetings of the Galileans during the great war with Rome;
– The provincial archives were transported to Tiberias with the government residence; a castle was built for the garrison, in the arsenals of which weapons were stored for 70 thousand persons. For the next 50 years, Tiberias was the undisputed capital of Galilee and, except for Caesarea, the most beautiful city of Palestine. Nero gave it to Agrippa the Younger, who moved the capital from Tiberias to Sepphoris (Zipori);
– It is not known whether Jesus visited Tiberias; the Gospels do not mention this; it is only certain that he was in the vicinity of the city and the lake. Tiberias is mentioned three times in the New Testament (John 6: 1, 23; 21: 1).
The Roman Empire
The Jews of Tiberias did not participate in the rebellion of 70, after the suppression of which the majority of the Palestinian Jewish population was destroyed or expelled.
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70, and especially after the founding of Elia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, Jerusalem Jews in large numbers resettle in Galilee, inhabit its cities, and establish a Jewish center here.
As a result, Tiberias turned into the only city of the Roman Empire, the majority of the population of which were Jews. In Tiberias, 13 synagogues were built.
For the Jews, the Tiberias Sanhedrin becomes the highest authority in religious matters; The Higher Jewish Academy, transferred here from Jerusalem, becomes the center of Jewish scholarship.
The decrees that make up the Mishnah, the central part of the Talmud, were compiled in the yeshivas of Tiberias.
- In this era, part of the Jerusalem Talmud was recorded in Tiberias. In Tiberias and the district lived the prominent Jewish sages of that time – Tannaim and Amoraim.
- Under Constantine the Great, the church was founded in Tiberias by the converted Jew Joseph Joseph; Empress Helen erected a church with about 12 thrones here. From 449 to 553, there was a bishopric in Tiberias.
- Emperor Justinian I surrounded Tiberias with intense camps. Under the Caliph Omar (637), the city fell under Muslim rule.
- In 1099, the crusaders captured Tiberias, and the city became part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The diocese was restored during the first crusade. The population and architectural structure of the city have almost completely changed. The city has become an important administrative and military center. The Crusaders built castles and fortifications in Tiberias. In 1187, the Crusaders were defeated by the army of Salah ad-Din near Karney Khitin (near Tiberias). After the crusaders were defeated, the city again fell under the rule of the Saracens, and since 1247 it was constantly under their rule. Tiberias has long been a small and dilapidated city.
In 1564, a Jewish philanthropist from Portugal, Beatrice de Luna, took the name of Gracia Nasi, taking advantage of the propitiousness
of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and leased the city. The city was significantly rebuilt in the period 1564-1569. Garcia Nasi’s nephew, Jean Mick, who in Turkey became Joseph Nasi, is considered by some sources to be the first Zionist. As far back as 1561, he received as a gift a part of the city with its suburbs and turned it into a center of Jewry, that is, into a place where Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal can come, as well as all oppressed Jews in Germany, France, and Poland.
In 1740, the chief rabbi of Izmir, Chaim Abulafiy, moved to Tiberias. Since 1777, Hasidim began to settle in the city under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Mendel from Vitebsk.
In 1811 it was nothing more than a village, in which there were about a hundred Jewish, 20 Christian, and quite a few Mohammedan houses. The city population totaled up to 4,000 inhabitants, of which half were Jews. In 1837 the city was destroyed by an earthquake; only a part of the ancient fortress with walls of houses survived; many residents died.
Since the beginning of Jewish immigration to Palestine in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, the Jewish population of Tiberias has grown significantly.
During the War of Independence, the city became the scene of fierce battles between Arabs and Jews.
The modern city is built from the ruins of the former; it is open on the lakeside, and on all other sides, it is surrounded by high walls and 20 towers of black basalt stone. Tiberias is one of the tourist centers of Israel and is visited by hundreds of thousands of local and overseas tourists every year.