From Herod Antipas through Jewish Sages, the Sanhedrin, Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, Ottomans and the London to Baghdad Airline.


tiberias.jpgThis city on the Sea of Galilee is deeply linked with its Jewish past & present. Tiberias, first established under the Tetrarchy of Herod Antipas in 22 CE 9son of herod the Great) who named it for his sponsor, Roman Emperor Tiberius. The city was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes which laid waste to its buildings in almost every subsequent century. The final resting place of the Sanhedrin until its abolition under the Christian Byzantines, Tiberias was at the centre of the compilation of the "Jerusalem Talmud", and held a special status during the Byzantine Era, being the only city of the region in which no church was ever constructed and the population remained steadfastly Jewish. In the early Middle Ages the city remained a steadfast centre of Jewish learning, drawing to it the greatest Sages of Biblical study, such as Maimondes, whose tomb is a regular site of pilgrimage to the city. Refounded following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Tiberias soon came to compete with Safed as a centre for Jewish learning. Home and resting place to Sages and Rabbis from the Roman to the Ottoman Eras; this is the fateful city which the Crusader columns marched to relieve in July 1186, only to meet their doom at the hands of the 'Saracen' armies of Salha-e-Din (Saladin) on the plain of the Horns of Hattin on the 4th of July, bringing the 1st Kingdom of Jerusalem to an end. The city has suffered from regular destructive earthquakes which caused abandonment in different eras. Following the Jews' exile from Spain, a Spanish-Jewish philanthropist, Donna Garcia, tried to single-handedly restore life to the city and succeeded in the 1500's for almost a century until yet another earthquake undid all her work. Later rebuilt and fortified, especially in the 18th Century by the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee who made it his Capital and persuaded the Chief Rabbi of Izmir in today's Turkey to move to Tiberias and establish his centre of learning here. R. Haim Abulafia's Kolel is still in place and just a few years ago while excavations took place to expand the building, the Crusader gate to the city was discovered. Today Tiberias is a centre for local tourism and a base for pilgrim groups who come to enjoy the year round temperate climate at 500ft (164m) below sea level and the nearby pilgrimage sites on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).