Tiberias: Heart of the Galilee

tiberiasTiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, is a popular health and holiday resort as well as a Jewish and Christian pilgrimage destination. The Sea of Galilee, Yam Kinneret in Hebrew is one of the most well-known bodies of water in the world. The history of Tiberias shows that this location has been sought after since ancient times, and is no less popular today. Here Jesus delivered his famous sermons and performed his first miracles. Tiberias sits along the 32-mile shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea lies roughly 650 feet below sea level and is 14 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at its widest point. The Sea of Galilee is an important source of fresh water for the entire country. While called a Sea, it is actually a lake, and lies on the ancient "Via Maris," a route that linked Egypt and Mesopotamia. Tiberias is the heart of the Galilee, posed on a mountain slope, beautifully looking over to the Golan Heights at the other side of the lake.

Tiberias: City of History

Tiberias has been a popular destination for tourists for more than 2,000 years. In the Roman times, this thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs, welcomed visitors from many parts of the ancient world. The city was built by Herod Antipas and was named Tiberias in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Around Tiberias occurred many of the biblical stories and many famous sites are located nearby: Capernaum, home to at least five of the twelve disciples, is the lakeside town where Jesus preached. This is where Jesus told his followers, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.". The Church of the Beatitudes is said to be where the Sermon of the Mount was preached. Further north is the town of tiberias 1Tabgha, the traditional site of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes. (Matt. 14: 13-21). Here Jesus fed 5,000 followers from five loaves of bread and two fish, and today is marked by the Church of Multiplication. The nearby lakeside town of Magdala is the hometown of Mary Magdalene, and of course the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on the water.

The leader of the great Jewish revolt against the Romans, Rabbi Ben Akiba (50-137 CE), was put on trial here in Tiberias. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 137 CE. His mausoleum is in the necropolis of Tiberias, and can still be seen. In the Mishnaic and Talmudic period, Tiberias was an important spiritual center. The Mishna was completed in Tiberias in 200 C.E. under the supervision of Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi ("Judah the Prince"). 200 years later the Palestinian Talmud was also composed at Tiberias (420 CE).

At the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee is Degania Aleph, Israel's oldest kibbutz, founded in 1909.

Today, Tiberias is a city of 30,000 inhabitants, and is still a major tourist attraction both for its natural beauty and for its historical sites.

Tiberias: Visiting the City
The modern city of Tiberias is easily reached by road from Tel-Aviv (2 hours), Haifa (1 hour) or Jerusalem (2 hours). Accommodation is abundant and many different types of hotels, B&B, and hostels are available. The Kibbutzim and villages around the Sea of Galilee also offer accommodation, most in beautiful and serene surroundings. The west side of the Kinneret is stonier and not all beaches are easy to reach. The eastern side has sandy beaches and offers water sports of all kinds. In the afternoons a strong eastern wind starts blowing over the region, so be cautious when bathing. The Golan Heights and the Northern Galilee regions are easily visited from Tiberias.


  • seaTHE SEA OF GALILEE: the Sea of Galilee is mentioned in the Bible under several names: the Sea of Chinnereth, the Sea of Genesar, the Lake of Gennesaret, the Sea of Galilee, and, the most commonly, the Sea of Tiberias. It is the backdrop of several well known biblical events, such as the ones about Jesus walking upon the waters, calming the stormy sea, and performing the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. In addition to visiting the shore-side holy sites, Christian visitors sail in fishing boats and tourist launches across the water.
  • CAPERNAUM: Capernaum is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. According to the Gospels, it was here that Jesus Christ first settled down during his public appearances in the Holy Land, thus making Capernaum “his town”. Capernaum and the surrounding region soon witnessed the appointment of the first disciples, numerous miracles and parables by Jesus Christ in the Holy Land. The new, stressed-concrete Roman Catholic Church of Saint peter is spread-eagled atop the excavations of the town Jesus knew.
  • THE MOUNT OF BEATITUDES: The hill at the northwestern point of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. With its view toward Capernaum and Tabgha, the hill is shaped with a natural hollow that serves as a natural amphitheater amplifying the speaker’s voice. The flower-filled gardens of the Mount of Beatitudes are a treat for visitors.
  • TABGHA: Site of the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes, and the post resurrection appearance of Jesus. An early Byzantine Church was discovered in 1932 and rebuilt in 1982 as the church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. Mosaics were discovered including a view of marshes and water birds, and a basket with loaves of bread and two fishes. The Greek word Heptapegon means ‘the place of seven sprigs’. Until relatively recently they powered mills and the name was corrupted in Arabic into Tabgha.
  • peterCHURCH OF THE PRIMACY OF SAINT PETER: A Franciscan church located in Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It commemorates Jesus reinstatement of Peter, after breakfast, with the words “Feed my sheep” (after his three-time denial of Jesus at the crucifixion). This is the vent for which the modern church is named, which is interpreted by the Catholic Church to give the Pope (as the successor of Peter) authority over the worldwide Church.
  • MAGDALA: According to traditional, Magdal (one of the most important cities in Galilee) became popular for being the native place of Mary Magdalene a fervent follower of Jesus. She is particularly important as the one who sees the risen Jesus and has the mission of announcing the Resurrection to the apostles. Excavations, conducted by the Franciscans, brought to the light part of the Roman city.
  • SEPPHORIS (ZIPPORI)Sepphoris was home of Joachim and Anna and birthplace of Mary. The excavations at Sepphoris have uncovered a large city, amongst which archeologists have found some of the most magnificent mosaics ever discovered in the Holy Land, including that known as “The Mona Lisa of the Holy Land”.
  • CANA IN THE GALILEEJesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine at the request of Mary, His Mother. In this way, Jesus manifested His divine glory and kindled the faith of His disciples.


The city of Nazareth is located in the heart of an undulating valley, where Jesus spent his childhood and lived with Joseph and Mary. The old town of Nazareth is inhabited by Christians and Muslims, and contains significant holy sites. The BASILICA OF ANNUNCIATION is the major focal point in Nazareth. A bold, modern church, its large dome tower over the town. The crypt includes the Cave of Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel has appeared to Mary. A peaceful garden leads past some ruins to SAINT JOSEPH CHURCH, a small, intimate church, rebuilt on the traditional site of Saint Joseph’s home and workshop.

  • HORNS OF HITTINThe place where Crusaders were defeated by Saladin in 1187. According to tradition, it was here (near the end of the plateau at the end of Wadi Abu el-Amis) where Jesus worked the Miracle of the second Multiplication of the Loaves.
  • MOUNT TABORStanding on the top of Mount Tabor, where the Transfiguration of Jesus took place, this house is ideal to welcome pilgrims for a moment of peace and meditation. The magnificent view from Mount Tabor, a mountain which has always been considered sacred, allows you to contemplate and reflect on many Biblical episodes from the history of the Holy Land.
  • NAIN (NAIM): the village of Nain on the northern slope of Jebel Dahi owes its fame to the Gospel: it is remembered only because it is where Jesus resuscitated the widow’s son.
  • BELVOIRThis Crusader Castle was set on a high mountain south of the Sea of Galilee with a magical view of the Galilee - hence its name, meaning “beautiful view”.
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