The City of Tiberias

Mandy WorbyArticles, Mandy Worby

The Leaning Tower at Tiberias, Israel
The Leaning Tower erected by Zahir al-Umar in Tiberias

Tiberias is a city in Israel located on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is locally called Lake Kinneret, but we mostly know it as the Sea of Galilee. Our Israeli guide calls Tiberias, Tiberiah, which has a lovely Israeli lilt to it.

The city itself was first established about 20BC and was named to honour the Roman Emperor Tiberias and the original city was actually located just a little further along the shores than the current modern city of Tiberias…however when I say the modern city, it’s still ancient.

The city has natural hot springs which were known to help cure skin and other ailments and today it’s quite a bustling city, although it’s really very old. What is very characteristic of the buildings in Tiberias is the common use of black basalt stone.

Most of the tourist hotels are situated along the shores of Tiberias which is really quite lovely when you wake up each morning to look out your window and see the sun rising over the lake.

The history of Tiberias… is crucial in the unfolding of God’s plans for this land.

There is quite a large orthodox community in Tiberias, and in fact, for many centuries, Tiberias has been considered 1 of the 4 holiest cities of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem is #1 for obvious reasons;

Hebron is #2 because it’s where the majority of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried;

Tz’fat is #3 because it’s the birthplace of Kabbalah and;

Tiberias is the 4th because it’s the place where the Jerusalem Talmud was composed and because of the influx of rabbis who established the city as a centre for Jewish learning in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There’s another important historical event that has to be mentioned as well; the ‘Great Ride’ that took place in September 1918. Semakh is very close to Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and after the liberation of Beersheva, 12,000 Australian Light Horsemen were part of this ‘Great Ride’ that travelled from Jaffa, up to Megiddo and through to Semakh and from there on to Damascus, overcoming the Turks at every stop along the way. The end result was the final liberation of the Holy Land from the occupying Ottoman forces.

There’s a new memorial at Semakh near Tiberias to commemorate the ‘Great Ride’. The history of Tiberias is very important, not just because it’s both ancient and modern, but because it’s crucial in the unfolding of God’s plans for this land.