Taking in Tiberias

History isn’t the only attraction in Israel’s storied, waterfront city

You may not be able to walk across the Sea of Galilee like Jesus, but the 40-mile Jesus Trail traces the routes biblical figures.
Tiberias, the ancient city on the western coast of Israel’s Sea of Galilee, is often only passed through on the way to Golan Heights; but, with a history that dates back to 20 C.E., it’s very deserving of a longer stay.

Modern day Tiberias pays homage to its ancient heritage by building around it. The city’s tourism information center, for instance, makes use of what was once a Crusader fortress, its grounds still strewn with Roman ruins. Tiberias’ only non-Kosher hotel, the Scots Hotel, used to be a hospital where many of the eldest locals were born. It blends Victorian architecture with Ottoman architecture (mansions once owned by doctors surround the main building) as well as a few contemporary additions.

The city’s rich cultural and religious history can best be grasped by visiting the large number of churches, synagogues, and mosques that house elaborate mosaic floors displaying the zodiac and other symbolic stories. The Tomb of Maimonides, one of Israel’s foremost Jewish pilgrimage sites, is worth fighting the crowds to see.

At night, locals and tourists alike gather at the restaurants that line Tiberias’ waterfront to watch the biblical-era boats and to enjoy freshly caught fish, including local specialty, St. Peter’s Fish: a deliciously-spiced, charcoal-grilled redbelly tilapia. The Galilee Experience, a light and movie spectacle that chronicles 4,000 years of history, makes ideal after-dinner entertainment.

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