Tiberias is one of the four Jewish holy cities mentioned in the Talmud along with Jerusalem, Tsfat and Hebron. According to Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the dead will begin here after the coming of the Messiah.
The city was built by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod around 20 CE in honor of the Roman emperor, Tiberius. At first, Jews wouldn't live here because the city was built on an ancient burial ground, making it "unclean" according to Jewish religious laws. At the beginning of the 2nd century, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai came here for the healing waters of the hot springs. He performed a purification ceremony to sanctify the city, and it became the center for Jewish learning and spirituality in Eretz Israel. The Mishnah was completed here and it is traditionally believed that in later years, the Jerusalem Talmud - despite its name - was compiled and edited in Tiberias.
Many Jewish rabbis and tzaddikim (sages) requested to be buried in this holy city. One of them was the great Torah scholar Rabbi Akiva, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE and taught thousand of students. He was imprisoned and tortured by the Romans for supporting the Bar Kochba rebellion in 132-135 CE and was eventually killed.
Other well-known tzaddikim who are buried here are Rabbi Meir Baal Haness (the Miracle-worker), Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai and Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (the "Rambam"). Every year, hundreds of thousands of Jews make the pilgrimage to their tombs.
The Tomb of the Rambam - Tiberias
While you're there, visit the Maimonides Heritage Center, which is open Sunday-Thursday from 10.00-16.00. Entry is free for individuals and guided tours and presentations are available for groups. Contact Michael at: 054-4542631.