Tiberias: Old, New and Lakeview
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Its difficult to entice teenagers to join a family trip. Even nice ones like my own. Usually, they prefer to do their own thing. However, this time, I used the ultimate birthday excuse and brought them on board.
I was eager to see the Sea of Galillee in all it splendor ever since the recent winter rains filled it nearly to the top.
In order to ensure sufficient activity, I registered for one of the Ministry of Tourism's free promotional tours that will be taking place throughout the summer via the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Hamat Tiberias National Park
Etz Ha'chaim Synagogue
'Hamat', the original site of the city mentioned in the book of Joshua 19:35 was named after the hot springs (60oC) that originally flowed. Later on, when the city of Tiberias was built in 20 CE., named after the second Roman emperor Tiberius, the two cities merged. Hence the name of the national park.
The highlights of the park include a 3rd century synagogue built in the center of the excavated city with a well preserved mosaic floor, an 18th century bathhouse and hot wading pools from the remaining hot spring. The tour was enjoyable and gave a good deal of background on the ancient origins of the city, the rabbis who lived and worked in it and their major contribution to Jewish culture. These include written works such as: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Aleppo Codex (in Hebrew 'Keter Aram Tzova'), the most accurate version of the Bible as endorsed by Maimonides (Hebrew acronym 'the Rambam').
Several of the rabbis are buried in Tiberas including the Rambam who was brought there after his death and you can visit their tombs. The nearest one to the national park is that of Rabbi Meir Ball HaNess, a sage of the Mishna and member of the 'Sanhedrin' (i.e. high court of Jewish law) that in its last stop was located in Tiberas.
The Tiberias Boardwalk is a relatively modern construction built in 1934 after a major flood. The highlight of the boardwalk is the water level surveyor that measures that specifies the height of the water in meters below sea level.
On the way to the boardwalk we passed a marking of the 'Sanhedrin Trail', a relatively new hiking trail inaugurated on the 70th Anniversary of the State of Israel. The hiking trail follows the relocations of the Sanhedrin court that took place after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It starts in Beit Shearim and ends in Tiberias.
Etz Ha'chaim Synagogue
After the boardwalk we cut back to the hotel passing by the 'Etz Ha'chaim Synagogue' another historic site dating back to 1742. The synagogue was run by Rabbi Hayyim ben Jacob Abulafiya, who together with Daher al-Omar, the local Arab ruler on behalf of the Ottoman empire rebuilt Tiberias in the 18th century. Among other things, Daher al-Omar rebuilt the wall surrounding the city on the foundations of a previous wall built by Doña Gracia, another prominent figure (16th century) of interest. The tour guide expanded on all of them.
We ate at the Magdala Hotel and Magdalena Restaurant. Please refer to my post for more details.
We stayed overnight at the Magdala Hotel located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the Migdal Junction. Please refer to my post for more details.
After checking in at the hotel at 15:00, our tour in Tiberias took place between 17:30-20:30, but I cut short at 20:00.
This is what it looks like on the map:
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