Tiberias and the Surrounding Areas
Named after the Roman Caesar, Tiberius, the city of Tiberias was built by the son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, who ruled from 4BC to 39AD. In ancient times, the city was considered one of Israel’s main holy centers and along with Jerusalem, Safed, and Hebron. Tiberias is situated in the Galilee, where Christianity began and is located along the southwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.. It was along the shores of the Sea of Galilee that the profound events surrounding the life and times of Jesus unfolded. The area is rich in holy sites both in and around the Tiberias area.
The most significant attractions in and around the area include the following:
St. Peter’s Monastery
Built in the second half of the 19th century over the remains of a Crusader castle, the apse projects like the bow of a ship–a reference to Peter’s profession before his call to discipleship.
Built to display finds from excavations and as a base for educational field trips. The finds include a synagogue and mosaic pavements.
El Bahri Sea Mosque & Museum
Near the marina, just off the promenade, is this 19th century place of worship that now houses the Municipal Museum. It is called the sea mosque because it once served Tiberias’ Muslim fishermen, and there was a special entrance from the water for worshipers arriving by boat. It is no longer on the water since the lakeshore was changed during construction of the promenade.
El Omri Mosque
In the heart of the city, the Great Mosque was built by the Bedouin Sheikh Daher El Omar in 1743 and is one of the few remaining buildings in the city from that period. It was the town’s main focal point and is depicted in many 18th and 19th century prints. It is claimed that the mosque was modeled after the great Aya Sofia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
Fifty years ago the buildings of Tiberias stood directly on the water’s edge and the streets ran parallel to the shore. In 1934, a flood destroyed much of the Old City. Afterwards the shorefront buildings were emptied and the streets rebuilt, running perpendicular to the shoreline to provide drainage and prevent similar disasters. A new promenade was built running along the shore and here you can find many the marina, cruise boats, many restaurants and pubs and magnificent views of the Sea of Galilee.
Hammath-Tiberias National Park
About a mile south of the Tiberias city center is Hammath-Tiberias National Park. The park contains ruins of the Jewish town of Hammath* (or Hammat) that in ancient times was separate from Tiberias. It appears in Joshua 19:35 as one of the fortified cities in the territory allotted to the tribe of Naphtali at the time of the Hebrew conquest. It is located opposite today’s Tiberias hot springs famous for their curative powers for 3,000 years. The name Hammath-Tiberias means “Hot Tiberias” and the ruins include several layers of ancient synagogues one above the other, the most impressive being the remains of a 4th century AD synagogue with a stunning mosaic floor featuring a circular area with a personification of the sun god Helios riding his chariot through the heavens, surrounded by the 12 signs of the zodiac. Other parts of the mosaic depict a Torah shrine flanked by Menorahs and various Jewish symbols: a shofar (ram’s horn), a lulav (palm branch bound by myrtle and willow) and an etrog (citron). The Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority developed the site, and planted a garden in the surrounding area.