This area has been a popular destination for tourists for over 2000 years. As early as Roman times this thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs more then 600 ft. below sea level, extended a warm welcome to visitors from every part of the ancient world. Built by Herod Antipas, the city was named Tiberias in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Tiberias plays an important role in Jewish history. It was part of the land bequeathed to Naphtali (Joshua 19.35). In the Mishnaic and Talmudic period, Tiberias was an important spiritual center. The Sanhedrin (the High Court of Israel during the period of the Second Temple) relocated to Tiberias from Sepphoris, and the Talmud was compiled there. A Samaritan center existed in Tiberias in the middle of the 4th century.
The New Testament contains several references to the lake which is also known as the Sea of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, Lake Tiberias, and the Sea of Gennesa ret. No other area in the world is so closely associated with the life and times of Jesus. Today Tiberias and the surrounding shores of the Sea of Galilee are a year-round vacation spot. The Sea of Galilee offers every conceivable water sport. Its 32-mile shoreline abounds with natural trails, hills to climb and caves to explore. Tiberias is famous for its hot springs and health resorts. It is also a religious center for Christians and Jews alike, with man)’ religious shrines and historical sites. In this area, some of Israel’s first kibbutzim (collective farms) were established by the early pioneers at the turn of the century.
PLACES OF INTEREST
THE OLD CITY WALLS
The remains of the ancient city nails, ramparts and round towers built of black basalt date from the Crusader and later periods, although some were obviously built over earlier walls.
During the rule of the Bedouin Sheikh Daher al-Omar, in the mid-1700s, the walls still standing today were erected. Al-Omar’s son Chulabi and the Egyptian Mameluke ruler Ibrahim Pasha, added to the construction. The 1837 earthquake badly damaged their work. The city walls indicate the small size of the medieval city, which covered only 37 acres. Fragments of the walls can be seen at the traffic light, at Hayarden and Habanim Streets, near the Lev Hagalil buildings. The major section of the southern wall winds from the edge of the Sea near the Moriah Plaza and Galei Kinneret hotels. The northwest section of the wall, traditionally called the ‘Crusader Castle” or Citadel” is located at Donna Gracia St.
THE CRUSADER CASTLE OR CITADEL
The northwestern corner of the old town wall is traditionally called the Crusader Castle or Citadel. Today it houses artists’ studios and restaurants and is called the Donna Gracia complex after the great lady who re-established Jewish Tiberias in the 16th century. Actually constructed by the Bedouin Chulabi in 1745, it is obviously post-Crusader, however its style is reminiscent of that period. Donna Gracia St. imp
A historic site on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, on Highway 90, the ruins of this ancient Jewish city were uncovered alongside the Tiberias Hot Springs. Outstanding among the ruins is a synagogue from the fourth century C.E., with exquisite mosaics among the most beautiful in the country. There is a garden at the site. Nearby, the Tiberias Hot Springs Corporation has set up the Ernest Lehman Museum of the History of the Baths of Tiberias.
Open every day. Apr. - Sept. 8 am - 5pm. Oct. - Mar. 8 am - 4 pm. On Fridays and the eves of holidays, the site closes one hour earlier. On the eve of Rosh Hashana, Passover, and Yom Kippur, the site closes two hours earlier. On Yom Kippur it is closed. Tel. 06-6 725287
Rabbi Moses ben-Maimon (Maimonides), also known as the leading Rambam, born in Spain in 1135, was the leading sage and philosopher of his time. In Jewish tradition the Rambam is so central that Rabbis say. “From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses.” He studied medicine in Cairo and his brilliant medical works were widely translated. He became an outstanding court physician and legend has it that Richard the Lion-Heart tried to convince him to come to England.
In the field of Jewish learning, the Rambam wrote the celebrated Mishne Torah in which he simplified the whole of traditional Jewish teaching as expressed in the Talmud. His Guide For the Perplexed, a presentation of the philosophy of Judaism, is his greatest and best-known work. On his death in 1204 he was buried in Tiberias where his tomb is still a major pilgrimage site. Open all day. Rabbi Abulafiya St.
RABBI AKIVA ‘S TOMB
One of Judaism‘s fabled heroes, Rabbi Akiva had a long and eventful life. Born to a poor Judean family in 50 CE., as a small boy the illiterate Akiva tended the flocks of a wealthy Jerusalemite whose pretty daughter, Rachel, fell in love with the young shepherd and encouraged him to study. Akiva married Rachel only to leave her for many years, in order to study. He became one of Israel’s outstanding scholars and formulators of Jewish thought and ethics. A great nationalist, Akiva identified himself with the revolt of Bar Kochva against the Romans, and in 135 CE. the Romans, to make an example of him, tortured and executed him. His white-domed tomb can be seen on the hillside above Tiberias. Open all day. Kiryat Moshe.
THE TOMB OF RABBI MEIR BA’AL HA-NESS
Looking down on the Tiberias Hot Springs is the traditional tomb of 2nd-century Rabbi Meir Ba’al Ha-Ness. A student of Rabbi Akiva, his wisdom and knowledge, original wit, and particularly his skill as a teacher, earned him the nickname of “Meir” – the illuminator. Legends tell how he miraculously rescued his sister-in-law from the Romans, subsequently becoming known as “The Miracle Worker” (Ba’al Ha-Ness). Two synagogues, one Sephardi built in 1873, and the other Ashkenazi, built 25 years later, mark the rabbi’s tomb. Believers throng to his tomb to pray for help in overcoming personal problems. During Maimuna, celebrated by Moroccan Jews, the day after Passover, a visit to his tomb is mandatory. Open 7.30 am - 6.30 pm. Near Hamei Tiberias Hot Springs Tel. 06-6 720795
THE GREAT EL OMRI MOSQUE
Tiberias’ Great Mosque in the heart of the city, erected by the Bedouin Sheikh Dahr al Omar in 1743, is one of the last few buildings dating from pre-1948 still standing in Tiberias. Experts claim that the mosque was built on the model of the Hagia Sophia mosque in Turkey. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was the most prominent building in the town and was often depicted in official pictures of Tiberias. The Great Mosque now stands at the center of a complex of stores and arcades and is no longer a place of worship.
JAMI AL BAHR MOSQUE & MUSEUM
The lakeside Jami al Bahr Mosque, housing the local Museum of Antiquities, was built about 1880, probably on Crusader remains. No longer a place of worship, the mosque, with its arcaded courtyard and high vaulted walls, has served for 20 years as the local museum, displaying a variety of archaeological finds and documents, maps and prints. The Mosque is called the Sea Mosque because it once served the Muslim fishermen of pre-State Tiberias. There was a special entrance where fishermen could enter by boat, before the construction of the Promenade pushed back the lake.
THE GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY
The contemporary monastery was built in 1862 on several layers of ruins and was restored during its centennial year. A walled garden serves as a forecourt to the four chapels - one dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, one to the twelve apostles, one to Mary Magdalene, and - in the ancient round tower - one to St. Nicholas. The original monastery was probably established during the third or fourth century G.E. Historians believe that the original was razed by the Persians in 614 CE. and later repeatedly rebuilt and redestroyed. It is encompassed by the southernmost walls of the Old City and includes a hostel which once served scores of Christian pilgrims. Open Sat.-Mon.8 am - 5 pm. Located on the Promenade near Habanim St. Tel. 06-6720042,
THE SCOTTISH CENTER OF THE GALILEE
At one time the only hospital in the Tiberias area, this center was established in 1885 by a young Scottish Protestant doctor, Dr. David Torrence, and treated Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. When Dr. Torrence passed away, Tiberias’ Chief Rabbi stated -“Tiberias was blessed with three things: the Sea of Galilee, the Hot Springs and Dr. Torrence.” The building served as a maternity hospital until the end of the 1950s when it was converted into a hostel. It is surrounded by a lovely walled garden, one of the most tranquil spots in Tiberias.
The Church Open Sun. 8am - 9am, 6pm - 7pm, other days of the week by appointment. The Garden Open daily 7am - 7pm. Hayarden St. corner Dana Gracia St. Tel, 06-6723769,
ST. PETER’S CHURCH (TERRA SANCTA)
The Franciscan Church of St. Peter, commemorating Jesus’ miraculous catch of fishes, stands on the lakeshore close to the Moriah Plaza and Caesar Hotels. Built by the Crusaders in the 12th century it became a mosque under Muslim rule, later a khan or caravansarai, and finally, once again, a church. Rebuilt in 1870, enlarged in 1903, and then restored in 1944 to its present form, the church has an apse in the shape of a boat. In the courtyard is a monument erected by Polish soldiers, who were quartered in the hostel during World War II The adjoining hostel, the Casa Nova, once served many Christian pilgrims and today is run by two monks. One can visit the church every day except Sunday and Christian holidays.
Open 8am - 11.45 am, 2pm - 5pm. Hayarden St. Tel. 06-6720516
THE CRADLE OF CHRISTIANITY
The towering white limestone pillars in the synagogue at the fishing village of Capernaum mark the seat of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. The apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John lived here.
Open 8.30 am. – 4 pm. Tel. 06-6721059
On the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, this Second Temple period Jewish town is the traditional site of Jesus’ Miracle of the Gaderene Swine. In the fifth century, a Christian town was founded here and the remains of a monastery from that period can he seen on the site. Near the rock where the miracle is said to have taken place, there is a reconstructed Byzantine church and chapel. Open every day Apr. - Sept. 8 am - 5pm, Oct. - Mar. 8 am - 4pm. On Fri. and eves of holidays the site closes one hour earlier. On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Passover and Yom Kippur, the site closes two hours earlier. Closed on Yom Kippur. Tel. 06-6731983
Hundreds affect below the sheer cliffs of Mt. Arhel lies Magdala, traditionally the home of Mary Magdalene.
MOUNT OF BEATITUDES
The ruins of a Byzantine chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes mark the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. There is a small and very beautiful chapel here today.
Open daily 8 am - 12 pm, 2.30 pm – 5 pm. Tel. 06-6790978
TABGHA (HEPTAPEGON -“SEVEN SPRINGS”)
Tabgha commemorates the traditional site of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. A small chapel marks the site of the Mensa Christi where Jesus told Peter to “feed my flock.” Open 8.30 am – 5 pm. Tel. 06-6721061
BAPTISMAL SITE, RIVER JORDAN
On a particularly calm stretch of water on the southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, at its outlet to the legendary River Jordan, a specially constructed baptismal site has been established.
· The traditional site of Jesus’ transfiguration.
Mt. Tavor Church is open Sun. - Fri. 8am - 12pm, 2pm - 5pm, Sat. closed.
· The village of Kfar Tavor, east of Mount Tavor, was founded in 1901 and originally called Mescha after the neighboring Arab village. In the village is a museum, Hatzerot Ha‘ikarim, depicting its history. Museum open Sun. - Fri. 8.30 am - 2 pm, Sat. 9 am - 2 pm. Tel. 06-6765844 Tel. of the local council 06-6769991
Where Jesus performed his first miracle. Baptist Church, Haknesiyot St. Catholic Church, open Mon. - Fri. 8 am - 12pm, in winter 2pm - 5pm, and in summer 2 pm – 6 pm. Sat. mornings only,
Sun. closed. Haknesiyot St. Tel. 06-6517011
YIGAL ALLON HOUSE - THE MAN OF THE GALILEE MUSEUM
This museum, named after Yigal AlIon, an Israeli statesman and military commander, features a sound and light show on the Galilee landscape, a computer center with programs showing sites and tours in the Galilee and stories of heroes; exhibition on the Jewish community in the time of the Mishnah and the Talmud and on the Arab village; an interactive exhibit on Man at War; an exhibition on Jewish settlements. There is also a memorial room and a film about Yigal Allon.
Near a eucalyptus grove on the shore of the Sea of Galilee a 2,000 year-old boat was found. The boat was transferred to a specially constructed pavilion at the museum. A film is screened about the discovery and presentation of the boat. Open Sun. - Thurs. 8.30 am - 5pm, Sat. 9 am - 5pm. Fri. and holiday eves the museum is open 8.30 am - 1 pm, the boat site. 8.30 am – 4 pm. Kibbutz Ginosar. Tel. 06-6 722905
Habanim St., Archaeological Park, Tiberias Tel. 06-6 725666