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Tiberias

Tiberias is a lively tourist city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, offering a variety of attractions and activities for every age.

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Tiberias promenade photo by Itamar Grinberg

 

Tiberias (Tverya) is synonymous with vacations in Israel. Here one can enjoy a variety of activities in a city that offers wonderful opportunities to mix relaxation with nature, history with contemporary attractions, serene quiet with active water sports, and pilgrimage sites with unique tourist attractions.

Located on the shores of Lake Kineret, Tiberias is Israel's lowest city at 200 meters below sea level, and it attracts thousands of tourists and travelers. Visitors discover a lively tourist city offering a variety of attractions and activities for every age. The city has 30 hotels including luxury hotels alongside bed and breakfasts and youth hostels. Most hotels are located on the beach and offer vacationers a real treat. Expansive lawns, a water park for the whole family, restaurants and bars, and extreme water sports are just a sampling of guest offerings.

There is also a variety of hotels in Tiberias's Old City near the lake and marina. The marina offers boat rides on Lake Kineret as well as the enjoyable sunsets. The romantic promenade sprawls along the lakeside near the marina including many cafes and restaurants that specialize in freshwater fish straight from the lake.

From the Old City and the promenade, the central boardwalk stretches up to downtown. This is a lively commercial center teeming with varied restaurants, cafes, overflowing pubs, ice cream parlors and souvenir shops. In the summer, the area is particularly crowded and bazaars are accompanied by contemporary music. Near the boardwalk, colorful horse-drawn carriages offer visitors a slightly different tour of the town.

On the other side of the boardwalk is Tiberias's famed fish market. The fishing industry is highly developed and dozens of fishing boats head onto the lake every morning, returning brimming with fresh fish for sale at the local market. Close to the market is a popular falafel complex that attracts thousands of hungry visitors seeking the hot, fresh, tasty morsels. Falafel stand owners will be happy to offer taste tests in the hopes you choose their wares for your lunch.

Across from the falafel stands is a large municipal auditorium in which events, celebrations and concerts are open to the public.

Tiberias also offers the Dona Gracia Museum, which tells the story of Gracia Nasi who used her considerable wealth to save many Jewish refugees of the Spanish Inquisition and build a Jewish city in Tiberias. The castle is a museum, divided into halls that tell her story and that of the period through rich visuals, scenery and the sounds of the Renaissance, which offer a royal experience.

South of the Old City is Hamat Tiberias National Park, which includes seventeen hot springs whose 60-degree Celsius waters are infused with approximately 100 minerals with unique therapeutic qualities that can be found only here. The site's healing capabilities have been known for 2,000 years and the baths have attracted people since time immemorial. The waters from the springs feed the renowned Tiberias Springs spa. The spa offers several thermo-mineral pools, luxurious body treatments and unique health treatments as well as the quiet atmosphere and the beautiful view of Lake Kineret.

The Kineret has attracted people for thousands of years, offering both a source of water and a livelihood. History has rendered both the Kineret area and Tiberias itself important to both Christians and Jews. Herod Antipas founded the city in 17-22 C.E., naming it after his patron, the Roman Emperor Tiberius. In the second through tenth centuries, Tiberias was the largest Jewish city in the Galilee, the Jewish people's political and religious hub, as well as the center of Jewish spiritual creativity.

A few years after its establishment, around 30 C.E., Jesus Christ moved his base of activities to the northern shore of Lake Kineret, where several well-known miracles took place including walking on the waters of the lake. As Christianity took hold, many churches were built in Tiberias and its surroundings.

Tiberias has been continuously inhabited and various buildings and ruins from various periods are well-preserved. In the Old City, built during the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire, a number of early sites are visible, including Daher El-Amar's 18th century fortress, a Jewish ritual bath, the black basalt remnants of the city wall, and the Church of St. Peter. Today's church was constructed on the ruins of a Crusader church that had one nave and narrow windows similar to portholes representative of the hull of an overturned boat. The modern church centers on artwork symbolizing the four Gospels under an inscription of Jesus's words to Peter "Be shepherd of my flock.” The stained glass windows depict fish and holy figures, while the rear courtyard houses a copy of a statue of Peter brought to Tiberias from Rome in 1833.

Many churches were also built outside the walls of the Old City. Concerts are occasionally held in the modest basalt Church of Scotland, founded by Dr. David Watt Torrance – also the founder of Tiberias's first hospital, or in its lush gardens on the shore. Across the way is the Scots Hotel, serving Christian pilgrims visiting the area.

At the southern end of the promenade is a Greek Orthodox Church and monastery, including three houses of prayer and a wall of religious icons.

The nearby Mount Berenice offers not only a spectacular view, but the impressive ruins of Anchor Church – named for the heavy anchor found at the center of the stone altar. No less famous, is the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus named his twelve apostles.

North of Tiberias, close to Lake Kineret, is the YMCA facility including a small church with a panoramic view of Lake Kineret. YMCA also offers an enchanting private beach and guest rooms.
South of Tiberias is Yardenit, the site traditionally recognized by Christianity as the place Jesus was baptized. The site attracts thousands of believers who dip in the waters.

Alongside the Christian holy sites, Tiberias is dotted with the burial sites of Jewish sages, making it one of Israel's holy cities. Pilgrims flock to the tombs of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Yochanan Ben-Zakai, Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, and the tomb of the great philosopher and sage Maimonides. Many come to his grave to pray for livelihood, a partner and even fertility.

Tiberias is attractive all around the year, with natural beauty, pastoral beaches and a variety of activities in the city and its surroundings.

 

 

 

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