The City of Tiberias

The city of Tiberias was built on the western shores of Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, by Herod Antipas in the year 19 CE. It is named Tiberias after the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Following the Great Revolt against the Romans (66 - 73 CE), in which the people of the city didn't took part, Tiberias became one of the most important places in the history of Israel and Judaism. It was the final seat of the Sanhedrin, and the city in which the most important writers of the Jerusalem Talmud lived and completed their work in about 400 CE. Here the sages created the Tiberian vowel system and the musical cantillation for chanting the Bible. A popular belief is that the Rambam, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, is buried there. It is also believed that many other sages are buried in the lower city of Tiberias, including Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNess, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

A major archeological discovery was that of an ancient synagogue that was uncovered in Tiberias Hot Springs. Many archaeological artifacts dating to the 2nd and 3rd century CE were found in the synagogue and its proximity. Among the artifacts is a famous relief of a seven-branch candelabrum from the 2nd century CE that was excavated in 1921. The candelabrum appears on the back of a one New Sheqel banknote (1986) and on a stamp from the series Israel Museum, Jerusalem (1966).

In 636 CE Tiberias was conquered by the Muslims. In 1100 it was conquered by the Crusaders. In 1187 the Muslims retook Tiberias and destroyed it. With the conquering of the Land of Israel by the Ottomans, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent leased the ruined city in 1562 to two Jews, previously crypto-Jews from Portugal, Don Joseph Nasi and Dona Gracia Nasi. They rebuilt the city and surrounded it by a wall. Their effort to establish a Jewish community in the city eventually failed, and in 1662 there were again no Jews to be found in it.

A subsequent attempt to establish a Jewish community was made in 1740 and this time it was successful – Jews have been residents of the city ever since. In 1777 a group of Hasidim from Eastern Europe settled in the city. In 1837 the city was entirely destroyed in an earthquake, but was rebuilt once more. Tiberias is one of four "holy cities" (together with Jerusalem, Safed and Hebron) – the cities where the Old Yishuv Jews (those who came to the Land of Israel between the end of the 18th century and the First Aliya of the Zionist movement in 1882) were concentrated.

Prior to the War of Independence, the city had both a Jewish community and a Muslim community, each of about 6,000 people. In Feb. 1948, as the tension of the war grew, the two communities started to fire at each other. In Apr. 1948, forces of the Golani Brigade and the Palmach (the elite units of the Hagana, the military arm of the Jewish community in Palestine) attacked the old city and put the Arabs living inside it under siege. The Arabs asked the British authorities for help, but after they were notified that British forces won't help them, they agreed to be evacuated. The British organized the evacuation and took the Arabs to Nazareth and to Jordan.

Due to its proximity to the Kinneret, the Golan Heights, holy sites, hot springs and its magnificent surrounding countryside, Tiberias has become an important tourist city in Israel.

The stamp was issued in 1999, as part of a three-stamps series called "Continuity of Jewish Life in Eretz Israel". Design: N. & M. Eshel.