Tiberias – Tiveria – טבריה

Tiberias (British English: /taɪˈbɪəriæs, -əs/; American English: /taɪˈbɪriəs/; Hebrew: טְבֶרְיָה‎, Tverya (audio) (help·info); Arabic: طبرية‎, Ṭabariyyah) is a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Lower Galilee, Israel. It was named in honour of the emperor Tiberius.


Tiberias was established in around AD 20 by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, it became the capital of his realm in Galilee. It was named in honor of Antipas' patron, the Roman Emperor Tiberius. There is a myth that the site was of the destroyed village of Rakkat. Josephus describes the building of Tiberias by Herod Antipas near a village called Emmaus in The Antiquities of the Jews. Also in The Wars of the Jews Flavius Josephus refers to it as Emmaus.

Tiberias's name in the Roman Empire (and consequently the form most used in English) was its Greek form, Τιβεριάς (Tiberiás, Modern Greek Τιβεριάδα Tiveriáda), an adaptation of the taw-suffixed Semitic form that preserved its feminine grammatical gender.

During Antipas's time, the Jews refused to settle there; the presence of a cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean. Antipas settled predominantly non-Jews there from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains in order to populate his new capital, and where Antipas built a palace on the acropolis. The prestige of Tiberias was so great that the sea of Galilee soon came to be call the sea of Tiberias. The city was governed by a city council of 600 with a committee of 10 until 44 CE when a Roman Procurator was set over the city after the death of Agrippa I. In 61 CE Agrippa II annexed the city to his kingdom whose capital was Caesarea Phillippi.[6] The most famous personage from Tiberias was Saint Peter, the chief apostle of Christ and his most loved disciple. During the First Jewish–Roman War Josephus Flavius took control of the city and destroyed Herod's palace but was able to stop the city being pillaged by his Jewish army. Where most other cities in Palestine were razed, Tiberias was spared as its inhabitants remained loyal to Rome after Josephus Flavius had surrendered the city to the Roman emperor Vespasian.[8][5] Eventually it became a mixed city after the fall of Jerusalem, with Judea subdued the southern Jewish population migrated to Galilee. In 145 CE the Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai “cleansed the city of ritual impurity allowing Jews to settle in the city in numbers. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, also fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, and after several moves eventually settled in Tiberias in about 150 CE. It was to be its final meeting place before disbanding in the early Byzantine period. Following the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem after 135, Tiberias and its neighbor Sepphoris became the major centers of Jewish culture. The Mishnah, which Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh is said to have collated as the Jerusalem Talmud, may have begun to have been written here. The 13 synagogues served the spiritual needs of a growing Jewish population.

In 614 it was the site where during the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire the Jewish population supported the Persian invaders the Christians were massacred and the churches destroyed. In 628 the Byzantium army retook Tiberias and the slaughter of the Christians was reciprocated with a slaughter of the Jews.

Middle Ages

In 636 CE Tiberias was established as the regional capital until Bet Shean took its place following the Umayyad 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.[6] The caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty also built one of its series of square-plan palaces (the most impressive of which is Hisham's Palace near Jericho) on the waterfront to the north of Tiberias, at Khirbet al-Minya. Tiberias was revitalised in 749 when it was again made the regional capital of Jordan after Bet Shean was destroyed by earthquake.[6] 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 know as Tiberian Hebrew and is also credited with putting the finishing touches on the Aleppo Codex, the oldest existing manuscript of the Hebrew scriptures, another indication of Tiberias' centrality to Hebrew scholarship and medieval Judaism as a whole.

The Jerusalem born geographer al-Muqaddasi writing in 985 AD, recounts that Tabariyyah is
“the capital of Jordan Province, and a city in the Valley of Canaan..The town is narrow, hot in summer and unhealthy. There are here eight natural hot baths, where no fuel need be used, and numberless basins besides of boiling water. The mosque is large and fine, and stands in the market-place. Its floor is laid in pebbles, set on stone drums, places close one to another.” Muqaddesi further describes that those who suffers from scab, or ulcers, and other such-like diseases come to Tiberias to bath in the hot springs for three days. Afterwards they dip in another spring which is cold, whereupon they become cured.

In 1033 Tiberias was again destroyed by an earthquake.

Nasir-i Khusrou visited in 1047, and describes a city with a “strong wall” which begin at the border of the lake and goes all around the town except on the water-side. Furthermore, he describes
“numberless buildings erected in the very water, for the bed of the lake in this part is rock; and they have built pleasure houses that are supported on columns of marble, rising up out of the water. The lake is very full of fish. The Friday Mosque is in the midst of the town. At the gate of the mosque is a spring, over which they have built a hot bath. On the western side of the town is a mosque known as the Jasmine Mosque (Masjid-i-Yasmin). It is a fine building and in the middle part rises a great platform (dukkan), where they have their Mihrabs (or prayer-niches). All round those they have set jasmine-shrubs, from which the mosque derives its name.”

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.[13] In 1099 the original site of the city was abandoned, and settlement shifted north to the present location.

In 1187 Saladin ordered al-Afdal to sent 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.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known in English as Moses Maimonides, a leading Jewish legal scholar, philosopher and physician of his period, died in 1204 and was buried in Tiberias, creating one of the city's important pilgrimage sites.

Yakut, writing in the 1220s, described Tiberias as a small town, long and narrow. He also describes the “hot salt springs, over which they have built Hammams which use no fuel. Tabariyyah was first conquered by (the Arab commander) Shurahbil in the year 13 (634 AD) by capitulation; one half of the houses and churches were to belong to the Muslims, the other half to the Christians.”

In 1265 the Crusaders were finally driven from the city by the Mamluks.[6]. The Mamluk rule ended when the Ottomans drove the Mamluks out in 1516.

Ottoman to contemporary

The expansion the Ottoman Empire along the southern Mediterranean coast under sultan Selim I coincided with the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) establishing Inquisition commissions. The fear engendered during the Inquisitions caused a migration of Conversos, (Marranos and Moriscos) and Sephardi Jews into Ottoman provinces, ending the centuries of the Iberian convivencia. The migrants who had initially settled in Constantinople, Salonika, Sarajevo, Sofia and Anatolia could now freely travel throughout the territories that had fallen under Turkish administration and were encouraged by the Sultan to settle in Palestine.[16][17][6] In 1558, the Portuguese born Doña Gracia, a former marrano, was given the tax collecting rights in Tiberias and its surrounding villages by Suleiman the Magnificent. She restored the city walls, built a yeshiva. Tiberias had a brief revival but languished as a backwater until Fakhr-al-Din II, a Druze, revitalised the city when he made it his capital.[6] The last Jew died in 1620 at the passing of Quaresimus. In 1635 Ottoman rule was re-established by the Ottomans.

Dhaher al-Omar an Arab-Bedouin fortified the town and made agreement with the neighbouring Bedouin tribes to prevent their looting raids. Accounts from that time tell of the great admiration which the people had for Dhaher, especially for his war against bandits on the roads. Richard Pococke, who visited Tiberias in 1727, witnessed the building of a fort to the north of the city, and the strengthening of the old walls, and attributed it to a disagreement with the pasha (ruler) of Damascus.[18] In the 1740, Tiberias was under the autonomous rule of Dhaher. In 1742 the Pasha of Damascus launch a raid against Tiberias. The siege of Tiberias lasted 85 days ending in the capture of the City.[6] It was under Dhaher's patronage that Jewish families were encouraged to settle in Tiberias from around 1742.

In 1746, rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a leading ethicist and kabbalist of his generation, died of the plague in the nearby Mediterranean port city of Akko and was buried overlooking Tiberias, next to a site traditionally venerated as the grave of Rabbi Akiva.
In 1775 Ahmed el-Jezzar “the Butcher” governed Tiberias, who brought peace to the region with an iron fist.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Tiberias received an influx of rabbis who established the city as a center for Jewish learning.[citation needed] During this time Tiberias became recognized as one of the Jewish Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed.

In 1837 the city of Tiberias was devastated by a large earthquake.[6] An American expedition found Tiberias still in a state of disrepair in 1847/1848.[20] In 1863 it is recorded that the Christians and Muslims elements makes up 3 quarters of the population (2,000 to 4,00000).

British Mandate

The British established a military authority at the conclusion of the First World war and received the League of Nation mandate of Palestine in 1922. Initially the relationship between Palestinian Arab and Palestinian Jews was good with few incidents occurring in the Nebi Musa riots and the disturbances throughout Palestine in 1929.

In 1938, after the Shlomo Ben-Yosef execution Palestinian Jewish extremist organisation carried out a series of attacks on civilian targets throughout Palestine in July and August as part of an undeclared war between Palestinian Arab and Palestinian Jewish factions. In October Palestinian Arab militants murdered 20 Jews in Tiberias during the Palestinian Arab national revolt.

In 1948, 9 Jews were massacred in Tiberias, and many Jewish families fled their homes for fear of more slaughter.

Between the 8 and 9 April sporadic shooting broke out between Palestinian Jewish and Palestinian Arab neighbourhoods of Tiberias. On 10 April 1948, the Haganah, launched a violent mortar barrage, massacring the Palestinian Arab residents.[23] The British Mandatory authorities demanded that the entire Jewish population of Tiberias immediately remove itself from Tiberias or be prepared to suffer British shelling in support of the Palestinian Arab attack. The Haganah counter-attacked the “Arab Liberation Army” commanded by Fawzi al-Qawuqji, and captured Palestinian Arab villages and neighborhoods which were deemed hostile by the haganah. They razed these Palestinian Arab villages to the ground and partly caused the exodus. The Palestinian Arab population (6,000 or 47.5% of the Tiberian population) were evacuated under British military protection on 19 April 1948.[6] As a result of the conflict, Tiberias and Safed, where the population had been mixed, became all-Jewish cities.

Today all that remains of historic Tiberias is a few parts of the historic wall, the result of the 1948 Israel Government policy. The Old City, with all its historical buildings and nearly all its historical walls, was entirely erased, and in its place today there are parking lots and modern Old City high-rise hotels.[25]
Today, Tiberias is Israel's most popular holiday resort in the northern part of the country.

In October 2004, a controversial group of rabbis claiming to represent varied communities in Israel undertook a ceremony in Tiberias, claiming to have established a new Sanhedrin.

Source: Wikipedia