A visit to Rabbi Akiva’s tomb in Tiberias is a chance to consider the many aspects of his life with significance for the Jewish people and all humanity: he started out as a poor ignorant shepherd, but became a great sage with 24,000 students, and a wealthy man.
His wife Rachel, who married him against the wishes of her father because of Akiva’s poor prospects, supported his career of study; theirs was a great love story.
Akiva, who backed the second-century CE rebel leader Bar Kokhba, was put to death by the Romans with the Shema the last words to pass his lips.
According to tradition, his body was miraculously transported to Tiberias for burial alongside his students who had died in a plague. His tomb, located on the mountainside behind the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, overlooks Tiberias and the Kinneret, and has been a pilgrimage site at least since the early Middle Ages. It became a special tradition to pray for rain at Rabbi Akiva’s tomb during drought years.
Among those who visited here was Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari, which made the site even more sacred.