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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN ISRAEL
 

TIBERIAS

 Named in honor of the Roman emperor Tiberius.

Chronology

Roman Period - Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod between the years 17-22 CE. Antipas named the new city in honor of his friend and benefactor the emperor Tiberius. The city was built on an ancient burial ground. Because of that, Jews were prohibited by religious laws from living in the town, and Antipas had a hard time populating the city. Eventually the economic resources  placed at the disposal of Tiberias outweighed the religious injunctions, and the population of the city expanded.

Great Rebellion Against Rome (66-70)  -  Josephus Flavius, the Jewish commander of the Galilee, later to become  the Roman historian of the revolt, fortifies the city. But the population does not want to rebel. The city elders surrender to Vespasian, the Roman commander, without a fight.

Late Roman - Early Byzantine- During the first half of the second century Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yohai cleanses the city from the ancient graves. Once that matter is taken care of Tiberias becomes the most important Jewish center in the Land of Israel. During the times of Rabbi Yehuda Nasi, Tiberias is home to many sages and rabbis, and for the next 5 centuries serves as the center of Jewish life in the land of Israel - the seat of the Nasi - the highest Jewish authority in the Jewish world.

During the 4th century, when the Roman Empire embraces Christianity the Jews of Tiberias are harassed by a Jewish convert to Christianity, Joseph the Commes, he is the most important Byzantine official in the city. During his time the first church is built  in the town.  During the 4th century Tiberias was also home to a large Samaritan community.

Around the year 400 the Jerusalem Talmud is canonized in Tiberias (even though it was edited and finalized in Tiberias, it is, never the less, called the Jerusalem Talmud).

425 CE - The title and position of Nasi is annulled by the Byzantine authorities.

520 - Mar Zutra, the son of Rosh HaGola, (the exilarch, Head of the Jewish Diaspora), who resided in Baghdad, settles in Tiberias.

614-629 - A Persian army invades the land of Israel and expels the Byzantines. The Jewish communities in the east, and in the Land of Israel, sided with the Persians.

629-636 - The Byzantines expel the Persians. The Land of Israel is under Christian-Byzantine rule again.

636 - Tiberias is conquered by the Arabs. The city remains the center of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel. During the 7th century the Nikud, the system of vowel notation, in use in Hebrew to this day, was invented in Tiberias.

The Crusadet Period - Tiberias becomes the capital of the Principality of Galilee.

1247 - Crusader's expelled from Tiberias by the Mamlukes.

1563 - Don Joseph, Duke of Naxos, rebuilds Tiberias and renews the Jewish community in the town.

1660 - Tiberias abandoned by Jewish community due to fighting between the local farmers and Bedouins.

1740 - The Bedouin prince Dahr el Omar, resettles Tiberias and reinstates the Jewish community. Rabbi Haim Abulafiya settles in the town.

1745 - Dahr's son, Chilibi, is nominated governor of Tiberias.

1765 - Rabbi Menahem of Vitbesk and a group of Hassidic Jews settle in Tiberias.

1837 - An earthquake devastates the town.

20th century - Tiberias expands beyond the old city walls. New neighborhoods are built on the slopes above the old city.

April 16-18, 1948 - Jewish forces conquer Tiberias.  The Arab inhabitants flee the city.

Population of the city today: 40,000/

Sites of Interest
Roman gates and walls, Byzantine city, Church of St. Peter, Grave of Rabbi Akiva, Graves of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai and the Rambam. Synagogue of Hamat Tiberias, Old Cemetery, Tiberias Hotsprings, Grave of Rabbi Meir the Miracle Maker.

 


 

 

 

 

Zaddiks of Tiberias
Tiberias is surrounded by graves of Jewish sages, a magnate for Jewish pilgrimage for centuries.
Foremost is the the grave of Rabbi Meir the Miracle Maker. The grave, today inside an elaborate building, is located south of the city just off the main road that runs around the Sea of Galilee (route 90).
Rabbi Meir, a student of Rabbi Akiva, was one of the most importan 2nd century sages. According the the Talmud he was an active participant in the Bar Kochba revolt, and the author of many Talmudic aggadot and halachot.
Many seek out his grave for a blessing and on the traditional day of his death a hilula - a festive pilgrimage, is held at the site.
Rabbi Meir's teacher, Rabbi Akiva, is also buried in Tiberias. His grave is located towards the top of the slope overlooking Tiberias. Rabbi Akiva's grave, in contrast to Rabbi Meir's,  is a place of solitude, with worshippers coming for quiet introspection.
Rabbi Akiva's wife is buried near the old cemetery of Tiberias. The site, in  contrast to the much older traditions of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Akiva, is a very recent tradition. The building used to be the tomb of a Moslem saint until the 1980s.
In the center of Tiberias are the graves of the Rambam and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai. Like the other famous sages buried in Tiberias, the Rambam did not live or pass away  in the city. He died in Egypt where his grave is still shown in the old Mamluke  quarter of Cairo. The Tiberias tradition recounts in  detail how the body of the Rambam, according to his wishes, was transported to Tiberias for burial.
Other famous graves in Tiberias include the graves of the Matriarchs, and the
graves of Hassidic rabbis buried in the old cemetery. These have also become major pilgrimage sites.

Internet Blessings
For those who need a blessing from Rabbi Meir, but cannot get immediately to the grave,t he Jewish Blessings  internet site offers a solution. Armed with a credit card you can fill out a form and get the blessing to the grave on time. Video recordings and certificates are sent to the applicants by email. I hope the Miracle Maker approves.
Jewish Blessings


ERETZ Magazine 2016