History of Tiberias

Where can one have the best beach vacation in Israel – in Tiberias, for sure.

Today the city of Tiberias is a favorite recreation place with the residents of Israel. The past and the present rub shoulders here, the city combines tranquility with active sports, and unique pilgrimage shrines with beautiful tourist destinations.

Tiberias stretches alongside the shore of Lake Kinneret, and has the lowest elevation in Israel.  It is a place that attracts numbers of tourists from all over the world every year. For them staying in Israel often means staying in this city.  This is quite a busy tourist center, which offers plenty of fun and different leisure options for visitors of all ages. The city currently operates about three dozen hotels, including luxury hotels and more modest pensions. It should be noted that most of the local hotels are situated directly on the coast, and one can really enjoy staying there.

Water parks, restaurants and bars, discos – this is only a small portion of the wealth, which Tiberias has to offer to its guests. Staying here, you can take a romantic boat trip in the Sea of ​​Galilee, watch the sunset, and have a meal in one of the numerous cozy cafes and restaurants.

The city got its name from Emperor Tiberius of Rome. After the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, Tiberias became a major spiritual center in the country. Tiberias was built in 17 AD by Herod Antipas in honour of the Emperor Tiberius and was built in the best and the most beautiful part of Galilee. Government archives of the province as well as the seat of the government were relocated here and a castle was constructed for a military garrison. Over the next half-century this city was unexceptional as the capital of Galilee.

Nobody knows whether Jesus has really visited the place, the Gospel does not mention it, but there is no doubt he has visited the area near the city and the lake. It was here a couple of years after the founding of the city, about year 30 AD, on the Sea of ​​Galilee, a unique aspect of Scripture history took place; that history  is related to life and miracles of Jesus Christ, even including his walking on water. All these and many other events took place here. Gradually, with the development of Christianity in Tiberias and its environs a lot of churches were built.

It should be noted that the Jews of Tiberias did not take part in the revolt of ’70, and after the successful suppression of which the majority of the Jewish population of Palestine were driven out or destroyed.  Tiberias survived as a centre of Jewish culture and later, 13 synagogues were built. In the following years, Emperor Justinian fortified the city and  surrounded it with strong walls.

In 1099 the city was captured by the Crusaders, and Tiberias became part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During this period the population and the architectural structure of the city was almost completely changed, and Tiberias became an important military and administrative center. The Crusaders built castles and numerous fieldworks here. In 1187 the Crusaders were defeated by the army of Salah al-Din, after which Tiberias fell under the sway of the Saracens again, during whose reign it was an insignificant city for a long time.

A later city, which got the Arabic name of Tabariyyah, was erected on the ruins of the old city of Tiberias. In 1564 the Jewish patron Beatrice de Luna, taking advantage of the favor of the sultan of the Ottoman Empire Suleiman I, rented the city. It was then substantially rebuilt during the period of 1564-1569.

In 1811 it had again shrunk to a small settlement, of about a hundred houses.  I.L. Burckhardt counted about four thousand citizens, half of them were Jewish. Unfortunately in 1837 Tiberias was destroyed by an earthquake, only a part of the ancient fortress and walls of the houses have survived. A large number of people died.

It should be noted that throughout its history, the city has always been populated. Buildings and ruins, which belong to different historical epochs, have been perfectly preserved up to the present day. In the Old City, substantially built up during the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire, you can enjoy a unique opportunity of seeing various attractions, such as Daher el-Amar – the eighteenth century fortress, a Jewish water body used for ritual bathing, the ruins of the city wall built of black basalt, as well as St. Peter’s church. At the same time I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the modern church was built on the ruins of the Crusader church. It is an interesting fact that the nave and rather narrow windows make it look very similar to an overturned hull of a large ship. The church was decorated with symbols of the four Gospels, and Jesus’ phrase, which was addressed to Peter: ‘Feed my lambs.’ On the stained glass windows there were pictures of fish and saints, and in the back yard there was a copy of the statue of Peter, which was brought here from Rome in 1833.

It should be mentioned that a lot of churches operate within the walls of the Old Town. Of particular note is a representative of the Church of Scotland, a modest basalt building with lush garden in which fascinating concerts often take place. This church was founded by Dr. David Watt Torrance. It was through his efforts in Tiberias that the first hospital, located opposite the Scottish hotel where a lot of Christian pilgrims stay nowadays, started working. At the southern part of the waterfront there is a Greek Orthodox Church and a Monastery with three prayer houses.

From the nearby mountain Berenice you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding area. There are also impressive ruins of Anchor Church, which was named so in honor of the heavy anchor found in the very heart of its stone altar. Also the famous Mountain of Beatitudes is extremely popular, where according to the legend Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount.

Owing to the unique beauty of nature, pastoral beaches, a huge number of various attractions and different types of recreation activities Tiberias successfully hosts visitors from all over the world throughout the year. At the moment Tiberias is one of the major tourist centers in Israel.

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