History of Tiberias

Tiberias has been a popular destination for tourists for more than 2,000 years. As early as Roman times, this thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs more than 600 feet below sea level, welcomed visitors from every part of the ancient world. Built by Herod Antipas (one of Herod the Great's three sons who divided up Palestine after their father's death), the city was named Tiberias in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius.

The Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, and after stationing themselves in ten places they eventually settled in Tiberias (150 CE). It was to be its final meeting place before disbanding in the early Byzantine period. However it is said that the redemption of the Jewish people and the reinstitution of the Sanhedrin will take place in Tiberius (Rosh Hashanah 31a-31b) Following the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem after 135, Tiberias and its neighbor Sapphires became the major centers of Jewish culture. Shortly after in the year 200 the Mishnah or oral law was recorded by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. It is then that in the year 400 that the Talmud yerushalmy was compiled and closed in the city of Tiberias.

In 636 CE Tiberias was established as the regional capital until Bet Shean took its place following the Rashidun conquest. The Caliphate allowed 70 Jewish families from Tiberias to form the core of a renewed Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the importance of Tiberias to Jewish life declined. The caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty also built one of its series of square-plan palaces on the waterfront to the north of Tiberias, at Khirbet al-Minya. Tiberias was revitalized in 749 when it was again made the regional capital of Jordan after Bet Shean was destroyed by an earthquake. The community of masoretic scholars flourished at Tiberias from the beginning of the 8th century to the end of the 10th. These scholars codified the oral traditions of ancient Hebrew, which is still in use by all streams of Judaism. The apogee of the Tiberian Masoretic scholarly community is personified in Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, who refined the oral tradition now known as Tiberian Hebrew and is also credited with putting the finishing touches on the Aleppo Codex. Which is also the oldest existing manuscript of the Hebrew scriptures, another indication of Tiberias' centrality to Hebrew scholarship and medieval Judaism as a whole.

During the First Crusade it was occupied by the Franks, soon after the capture of Jerusalem and it was given in fief to Tancred who made it his capital of the Principality of Galilee in the Kingdom of Jerusalem; the region was sometimes called the Principality of Tiberias, or the Tiberiad. In 1099 the original site of the city was abandoned, and settlement shifted north to the present location. In 1187 Saladin ordered his son al-Afdal to send an envoy to Count Raymond of Tripoli requesting safe passage through his fiefdom of Galilee and Tiberias. Raymond was obliged to grant the request under the terms of his treaty with Saladin. Saladin's force left Caesarea Philippi to engage the fighting force of the Knights Templar. The Templar force was destroyed in the encounter. Saladin then besieged Tiberias, after 6 days the town fell. On 4 July 1187 Saladin defeated the crusaders coming to relieve Tiberias at the Battle of Hattin 10 km outside the city.

Burial of Maimonedes

In the year 1204 Moses Maimonides, HaRambam passed away and one year later his remains were buried in Tiberias on Ben Zakai street which is a short distance from the center of town.

The Sea Of The Galilee

Tiberias sits on the 32 mile shoreline of the Galilee or Kinneret The Sea lies roughly 650 feet below sea level It is 14 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at its widest point. The Sea is the major source of fresh water for the entire country The Kinneret is shaped like a harp and hence many have concluded that its title is was developed because of its shape Unfortunately the Kinneret has dropped three meters more meters below sea level due to lack of rain since 2007.

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