Glimpses of Israel - Tiberias

More Than a City By the Lake

Tiberias is located on the western shores of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), some 200 metres (600 ft) below sea level and boasting a warmer climate, with natural thermal springs. Built by Herod Antipas in 17 A.D. and named in honour of the reigning Caesar, Tiberias was lavished with public buildings including a stadium situated on the shore and a synagogue. Yet it was not until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. that the Jewish community in Tiberias began to grow significantly.

When the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish authority relocated there in 200 A.D., it set the stage for Tiberias to become more than a city by the Lake. For it was here in the ensuing years that the Jerusalem Talmud – the Gemara and the Mishna – containing the vast body of Jewish laws and customs, was compiled. It was here also that the fixed Hebrew Scriptures known as the Masoretic text was established. Tiberias is also the burial place of several influential rabbis, including Rabbi Moishe Ben Maimon (Rambam) or Maimonides.

Jewish presence fluctuated throughout the centuries under Gentile rule, until 1948 when the State of Israel was established and Jewish government returned. At the time, Tiberias was the first mixed Arab-Jewish city to be liberated, and one of three strategic cities liberated in the Galilee.

Today, Tiberias is a major tourist attraction for both the religious and secular visitor looking for links to the past, while seeking the enjoyment of the warmer climes, and the tranquillity of a lakeside location.