About Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee

The city of Tiberias is situated on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee. It has a shore strip of 7.70 kilometers and its area is 10,486 dunam. The city is a district city and the capital of the Eastern and Lower Galilee with 45,000 residents. The city is blessed with a year-round moderate warm climate, a rich culture and a multicultural and colorful people known for their warm and inviting hospitality.
Tiberias and the surrounding region are hosts for a multitude of historical and tourist sites stages of 3000 year old biblical stories and sites relating to the three major world religions. The city boasts the natural resources of the warm waters of the Sea of Galilee, as well as the natural hot springs of “Hamei Tveria” world known for its medicinal qualities.
During the last hundreds of years, there have been two attempts to renew the Jewish community in Tiberias. The second attempt was the one Rabbi Abulaffia tried and it was successful. This is the reason why the Jewish settlement in Tiberias preceded the ?First Aliya? by 150 years. The city was granted the status of a city during the Ottoman regime in 1877 together with seven other cities including Jerusalem. The city was the first among the mixed cities to be liberated during the War of Independence, on April the 15, 1948. According to tradition, the city has the graves of the fathers and scholars of our nation as well as historical sites, which are milestones in our History.

The History of Tiberias

Herod Antipas, son of king Herod, founded the city of Tiberias, which was named after the Emperor Tiberius, in the year 20 C.E. It was meant to be the capital of Herod Antipas’ kingdom. In the year 61 C.E., Tiberias was annexed to the kingdom of Agrippas the Second. When the great rebellion broke out (67 C.E.), Tiberias was fortified with walls, which stood firm even after it had surrounded to the Romans. Tiberias was part of Agrippas’ the Second Kingdom, until his death in the year 96 C.E. When Tiberias was under the rule of the Roman Empire, in the year 100 C.E., the city enjoyed the prosperity, which characterized the whole Empire.
In the middle of the second century, after the Bar Kohba Revolt, the city was purified by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and was made fit for the stay of scholars. At the end of the second century, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi moved from Tzipori to Tiberias. At that time the leadership institutions of the Jewish people, moved from Tzipori to Tiberias. At first, the Sanhedrin under the leadership of Rabbi Yochanan moved to Tiberias and then the Presidency under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi followed.

Rabbi Yochanan established the “Great School” in Tiberias. This institute, mentioned often in the books of our scholars, was (according to tradition) the place where the Local Talmud (Talmud Yerushalaim) was compiled and edited. Once Tiberias became the capital of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad, the city prospered for a long period. The scholars of Tiberias made it a city of Jewish learning and wisdom.

In the sixth century, the Yeshiva of Israel was established in Tiberias. This institute took the place of the Sanhedrin in leading the nation. In that era of the “Geonim”, schools of poets and preachers as well as writers prospered in the city. The Hebrew system of vowel punctuation, which is used until today, is called “The Tiberian Punctuation” after the city.

The conquest of Tiberias by the Moslems profited the city. Tiberias became the capital of the “Jordan District” and an important center of Government and Administration. Even during the Moslem rule, Jews were the majority in Tiberias while there was a considerable Christian community and Moslem minority.
During the Moslem Regime, Tiberias was hit several times by deadly earthquakes. The most famous among them was “the Seventh” which took place in the year 749 C.E.
The destruction caused by this earthquake can be seen in all the excavations around the city.
During the 10th century, Tiberias suffered, as did the whole nation of Israel, from different and recurring raids of foreign armies and bands of robbers.
In 1033 Tiberias was hit again by an earthquake, which destroyed many buildings.

In spite of the above, Tiberias kept its status as the capital of the Galilee, until the conquest by the Crusaders in 1099. Tankerd, the commander of the conquering
army, made Tiberias the capital of the “Principality of the Galilee”, which included also the area of the “Jordan District” during the Moslem rule. The walls of Tiberias were reconstructed. In the northern part of the Roman-Byzantine City, a large Fortress was built, around which the population concentrated. The inhabited area of the past was deserted and the new city of Tiberias as we know it today, was established.
In the year 1187, after the battle of Karnei Chitin, Sallachadin conquered the city, and it was under the Moslem-Iubic rule until the year 1240. Tiberias and the whole Galilee went back under the Crusader Regime for a short time.

In 1247, the city fell into the hands of the Mamelukes, and since then was continuously under the Moslem regime until the British conquest of Israel (1917-1918). During that whole long period, Tiberias suffered from many problems: lack of security, hunger, plagues and earthquakes. An event to be noted was the renewal of the Jewish settlement in Tiberias by Don Yossef Nasi and Dona Gracia (1564). The walls of the crusaders have been reconstructed first by representative of Don Yossef Nasi, Yossef Iben Ardeit, and secondly by D’aher El Omar. In the year 1745 D’aher’s son, Chulibe built a citadel on a hill in the northwest corner of the Crusader city.
Parts of the wall and its towers as well as the citadel are still standing. In 1833, Ibrahim Pacha, Governor of Egypt, restored the walls again but four years later (1837) they were hit by a severe earthquake that hit the city and its inhabitants.
The beginning of New Tiberias was the “Ahva” quarter built in 1912, as the first neighborhood outside the city’s walls.
In 1920 the quarter of “Kiryat Shmuel” was established in the citadel area of the city.
In 1934 the city experienced a major flood, which caused the destruction of parts of the ancient city. The authorities of the British Mandate reconstructed the city and paved roads in a new pattern. In the War of Independence (1948), Tiberias was the first mixed city to be liberated and declared to be under the Jewish Regime (April 15, 1948).