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Tiberias ( ; , Tverya ; , ) is a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galileemarker, Lower Galilee, Israelmarker. Established in 20 CE, it was named in honour of the emperor Tiberius. Since the sixteenth century, Tiberias has been considered one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalemmarker, Hebronmarker and Safedmarker. In the 2nd-10th centuries, Tiberias was the largest Jewish city in the Galilee, and the political and religious hub of the Jews of Palestine. According to Christian tradition, Jesus performed several miracles in the Tiberias district, making it an important pilgrimage site for devout Christians. Tiberias has historically been known for its hot springs, believed to cure skin and other ailments, for thousands of years.

History

Antiquity

Tiberias was founded as a Jewish city sometime around 20 CE by Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who made it the capital of his realm in Galilee. It was named in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. There is a legend that Tiberias was built on the site of the biblical village of Rakkat, mentioned in the Book of Joshua. A discussion of Tiberias as Rakkat appears in the Talmud. In The Antiquities of the Jews, the Roman Jewish historian Josephus states that Tiberias was near Emmaus. This location is repeated in The Wars of the Jews.

Under the Roman Empire, the city was known by its Greek name Τιβεριάς (Tiberiás, Modern Greek Τιβεριάδα Tiveriáda), an adaptation of the taw-suffixed Semitic form that preserved its feminine grammatical gender.

In the days of Antipas, the Jews refused to settle there; the presence of a cemetery rendered the site ritually unclean. Antipas settled predominantly non-Jews there from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains in order to populate his new capital, and Antipas furthermore built a palace on the acropolis. The prestige of Tiberias was so great that the sea of Galilee soon came to be called the sea of Tiberias. The city was governed by a city council of 600 with a committee of 10 until 44 CE when a Roman Procurator was set over the city after the death of Agrippa I. In 61 CE Agrippa II annexed the city to his kingdom whose capital was Caesarea Phillippimarker. During the First Jewish–Roman War Josephus Flavius took control of the city and destroyed Herod's palace but was able to stop the city being pillaged by his Jewish army. Where most other cities in Palestine were razed, Tiberias was spared because its inhabitants remained loyal to Rome after Josephus Flavius had surrendered the city to the Roman emperor Vespasian. It became a mixed city after the fall of Jerusalem; with Judea subdued, the southern Jewish population migrated to Galilee.

In 145 CE, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai "cleansed the city of ritual impurity allowing Jews to settle in the city in numbers." The Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, also fled from Jerusalem during the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, and after several moves eventually settled in Tiberias in about 150 CE. It was to be its final meeting place before disbanding in the early Byzantine period. Following the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalemmarker after 135, Tiberias and its neighbor Sepphoris became the major Jewish centres. From the time when Yochanan bar Nafcha (d. 279) settled in Tiberias, the city became the focus of Jewish religious scholarship in the land. The Mishnah along with the Jerusalem Talmud, (the written discussions of generations of rabbis in the Land of Israel – primarily in the academies of Tiberias and Caesareamarker), was probably compiled in Tiberias by Rabbi Judah haNasi in around 200 CE. The 13 synagogues served the spiritual needs of a growing Jewish population.

In the sixth century Tiberias was still the seat of Jewish religious learning. In light of this, Bishop Simeon of Beth Arsham urged the Christians of Palestine to seize the leaders of Judaism in Tiberias, to put them to the rack, and to compel them to command the Jewish king, Dhu Nuwas, to desist from persecuting the Christians in Najranmarker.

In 614, Tiberias was the site where during the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire, the Jewish population supported the Persian invaders; the Christians were massacred and the churches destroyed. In 628 the Byzantium army retook Tiberias and the slaughter of the Christians was reciprocated with a slaughter of the Jews.

Middle Ages

In 636 CE Tiberias was the regional capital until Bet Shean took its place following the Rashidun conquest. The Caliphate allowed 70 Jewish families from Tiberias to form the core of a renewed Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the importance of Tiberias to Jewish life declined. The caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty built one of its square-plan palaces on the waterfront to the north of Tiberias, at Khirbet al-Minya. Tiberias was revitalised in 749 after Bet Shean was destroyed in an earthquake. Jewish scholarship flourished from the beginning of the 8th century to the end of the 10th., when the oral traditions of ancient Hebrew, still in use today, were codified. One of the leading members of the Tiberian masoretic community was Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, who refined the oral tradition now known as Tiberian Hebrew. Ben Asher is also credited with putting the finishing touches on the Aleppo Codex, the oldest existing manuscript of the Hebrew scriptures.

The Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi writing in 985, describes Tiberias as "the capital of Jordan Province, and a city in the Valley of Canaan...The town is narrow, hot in summer and unhealthy...There are here eight natural hot baths, where no fuel need be used, and numberless basins besides of boiling water. The mosque is large and fine, and stands in the market-place. Its floor is laid in pebbles, set on stone drums, placed close one to another." According to Muqaddesi those who suffered from scab, or ulcers, and other such diseases came to Tiberias to bath in the hot springs for three days. "Afterwards they dip in another spring which is cold, whereupon...they become cured."

In 1033 Tiberias was again destroyed by an earthquake.

Nasir-i Khusrou visited in 1047, and describes a city with a "strong wall" which begin at the border of the lake and goes all around the town except on the water-side. Furthermore, he describes
"numberless buildings erected in the very water, for the bed of the lake in this part is rock; and they have built pleasure houses that are supported on columns of marble, rising up out of the water. The lake is very full of fish. [] The Friday Mosque is in the midst of the town. At the gate of the mosque is a spring, over which they have built a hot bath. [] On the western side of the town is a mosque known as the Jasmine Mosque (Masjid-i-Yasmin). It is a fine building and in the middle part rises a great platform (dukkan), where they have their Mihrabs (or prayer-niches). All round those they have set jasmine-shrubs, from which the mosque derives its name."


During the First Crusade it was occupied by the Franks, soon after the capture of Jerusalemmarker and it was given in fief to Tancred, who made it his capital of the Principality of Galilee in the Kingdom of Jerusalem; the region was sometimes called the Principality of Tiberias, or the Tiberiad. In 1099 the original site of the city was abandoned, and settlement shifted north to the present location. St. Peter's Church, originally built by the Crusaders, is still standing today, although the building has been altered and reconstructed over the years.

In 1187 Saladin ordered his son al-Afdal to send an envoy to Count Raymond of Tripoli requesting safe passage through his fiefdom of Galilee and Tiberias. Raymond was obliged to grant the request under the terms of his treaty with Saladin. Saladin's force left Caesarea Philippimarker to engage the fighting force of the Knights Templar. The Templar force was destroyed in the encounter. Saladin then besieged Tiberias, after 6 days the town fell. On 4 July 1187 Saladin defeated the crusaders coming to relieve Tiberias at the Battle of Hattinmarker 10 km outside the city.

At the beginning of the twelfth century the Jewish community numbered about fifty families; and at that time the best manuscripts of the Torah were said to be found there. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (Maimonides), a leading Jewish legal scholar, philosopher and physician of his period, died in 1204 and was buried in Tiberias, now one of the city's important pilgrimage sites.

Yakut, writing in the 1220s, described Tiberias as a small town, long and narrow. He also describes the "hot salt springs, over which they have built Hammams which use no fuel. Tabariyyah was first conquered by (the Arab commander) Shurahbil in the year 13 (634 AD) by capitulation; one half of the houses and churches were to belong to the Muslims, the other half to the Christians."

In 1265 the Crusaders were driven from the city by the Mamluks, who ruled Tiberias until the Ottoman conquest in 1516.

Ottoman era

As the Ottoman Empire expanded along the southern Mediterranean coast under sultan Selim I, the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs) began establishing Inquisition commissions. Many Conversos, (Marranos and Moriscos) and Sephardi Jews fled in fear to the Ottoman provinces, settling at first in Constantinoplemarker, Salonikamarker, Sarajevomarker, Sofiamarker and Anatoliamarker. The Sultan encouraged them to settle in Palestine. In 1558, a Portuguese-born marrano, Doña Gracia, was granted tax collecting rights in Tiberias and its surrounding villages by Suleiman the Magnificent. She envisaged the town becoming a refuge for Jews and obtained a permit to establish Jewish autonomy there. In 1561 her nephew Joseph Nasi, Lord of Tiberias, encouraged Jews to settle in Tiberias. Securing a firman from the Sultan, he and Joseph ben Adruth rebuilt the city walls and lay the groundwork for a textile (silk) industry, planting mulberry trees and urging craftsmen to move there. Plans were made for Jews to move from the Papal Statesmarker, but when the Ottomans and the Republic of Venice went to war, the plan was abandoned. No Christians or Jews were mentioned in the Ottoman registers of 1525, 1533, 1548, 1553 and 1572. The registers in 1596 recorded the population to consist of 50 Muslim families and 4 bachelors.

In 1624, when the Sultan recognized Fakhr-al-Din II as Lord of Arabistan (from Aleppo to the borders of Egypt), the Druze leader made Tiberias his capital.

In the 1720s, Dhaher al-Omar a Bedouin, fortified the town and signed an agreement with the neighboring Bedouin tribes to prevent looting. Accounts from that time tell of the great admiration people had for Dhaher, especially his war against bandits on the roads. Richard Pococke, who visited Tiberias in 1727, witnessed the building of a fort to the north of the city, and the strengthening of the old walls, attributing it to a dispute with the pasha of Damascus. In the 1740, Tiberias was under the autonomous rule of Dhaher. Under Dhaher's patronage, Jewish families were encouraged to settle in Tiberias. He invited Chaim Abulafia of Smyrnamarker to rebuild the Jewish community. The synagogue he built still stands. That year, the Pasha of Damascus launched a raid against Tiberias. The siege lasted 85 days, ending in the capture of the city.
View of Tiberas, 1862


In 1775, Ahmed el-Jezzar "the Butcher", brought peace to the region with an iron fist.

In 1780, many Polish Jews settled in the town. It was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the town received an influx of rabbis who established the city as a center for Jewish learning.

Six hundred people, including nearly 500 Jews, died in 1837 when the town was devastated by the Galilee earthquakemarker. An American expedition found Tiberias still in a state of disrepair in 1847/1848.

In 1850 Tiberias contained three synagogues which served the Sephardi community, which consisted of 80 families, and the Ashkenazim, all Poles and Russians, numbering about 100 families. It was reported that the Jewish inhabitants of Tiberias enjoyed more peace and security than those of Safedmarker.

In 1863 it is recorded that the Christian and Muslim elements made up three-quarters of the population (2,000 to 4,000). In 1901, the Jews of Tiberias numbered about 2,000 in a total population of 3,600. By 1912 the population reached 6,500. This included 4,500 Jews, 1,600 Muslims and the rest Christians.

British Mandate

Tiberias prior to 1946
Initially the relationship between Arabs and Jews in Tiberias was good, with few incidents occurring in the Nebi Musa riots and the disturbances throughout Palestine in 1929.

The landscape of the modern town was shaped by the great flood of Nov. 11, 1934. Deforestation on the slopes above the town combined with the fact that the city had been built as a series of closely-packed houses and buildings - usually sharing walls - built in narrow roads paralleling and closely hugging the shore of the lake. Flood waters carrying mud, stones, and boulders rushed down the slopes and filled the streets and buildings with water so rapidly that many people did not have time to escape, The loss of life and property was great. The city rebuilt on the slopes and the British Mandatory government planted the Scottish Forest on the slopes above the town to hold the soil and prevent similar disasters from recurring. A new seawall was constructed, moving the shoreline several yards out form the former shore.

In October 1938 Arab militants murdered 20 Jews in Tiberias during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

The population of Tiberias was recorded by the British authorities as follows:
  • 1922: 4427 Jews, 2096 Muslims, 422 Christians, 5 others
  • 1931: 5381 Jews, 2645 Muslims, 565 Christians, 10 others
  • 1945 : 6000 Jews, 4540 Muslims, 760 Christians, 10 others


1948 Arab-Israeli War

Between the April 8-9, 1948, sporadic shooting broke out between the Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods of Tiberias. On April 10, the Haganah launched a mortar barrage, killing some Arab residents. The local National Committee refused the offer of the Arab Liberation Army to take over defense of the city, but a small contingent of outside irregulars moved in. During April 10-17, the Haganah attacked the city and refused to negotiate a truce, while the British refused to intervene.The Arab population (6,000 residents or 47.5% of the population) was evacuated under British military protection on 18 April 1948. No order to expel the population had been given to the Jewish forces and the evacuation seems to have surprised them. Widespread looting of the Arab areas by the Jewish population had to be suppressed by force by the Haganah and Jewish police, who killed or injured several looters.

Urban renewal and preservation

Ancient and medieval Tiberias was destroyed by a series of devastating earthquakes, and much of what was built after the major earthquake of 1837 was destroyed or badly damaged in the great flood of 1934. Houses in the newer parts of town, uphill from the waterfront, survived. Urban renewal of the old occupied area along the lakefront in the 1960s removed most of the residential buildings in the area. In their place stand a waterfront promenade, open parkland, shopping streets, restaurants, and modern hotels. Carefully preserved were several churches, including one with foundations dating from the Crusader period, the city's two Ottoman-era mosques, and the several Ancient synagogues of Tiberias. All of the town's characteristic old houses, masonry-built of the local black basalt with white limestone windows and trim, are officially protected from demolition. They stand on the rising ground uphill from the flat land of the old center city on the waterfront. Also preserved are parts of the ancient wall, the Ottoman-era citadel, and several nineteenth century hotels, and Christian pilgrim hostels, convents, and schools.

The town retains two historic mosques, one on the waterfront promenade, and another larger one that is now boarded up. The masonry of both minarets has been carefully restored. In retaliation for the Arab attack on the Tomb of Josephmarker in Nablus, a group of Israeli right-wing extremists attempted to torch one of the old mosques.

Earthquakes

Beachfront of modern Tiberias
Tiberias has been severely damaged by earthquakes since antiquity. Earthquakes are known to have occurred in 30, 33, 115, 306, 363, 419, 447, 631-2 (aftershocks continued for a month) 1033, 1182, 1202, 1546, 1759, 1837, 1927 and 1943. See Galilee earthquake of 1837marker, Galilee earthquake of 363, and Near East earthquake of 1759.

Archaeology

A 2,000 year-old Roman theatre was discovered 15 meters below ground near Mount Bernike in the Tiberias hills. It seated over 7,000 people. Excavations on the shore unearthed a rare coin with the image of Jesus on one side and the Greek words "Jesus the Messiah King of Kings" on the other. It belongs to a series of coins issued in Constantinople to commemorate the First Millennium of Jesus' birth. Such coins have surfaced in neighboring countries, such as Turkey, but this is the first one found in Israel. It is believed to have been brought to Tiberias by Christian pilgrims.

Sports

Hapoel Tiberias represented the city in the top division of football for several seasons in the 1960s and 1980s, but eventually dropped into the regional leagues and folded due to financial difficulties. Following Hapoel's demise, a new club, Ironi Tiberias, was established, which currently plays in Liga Alef. 6 Nations Championship and Heineken Cup winner Jamie Heaslip was born in Tiberias.

Twin cities



See also



References

External links




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