Tiberias is located on the shores of the beautiful Sea of Galilee (or Kinnereth in Hebrew). It was built in 19 AD by Herod Antipas, one of the three sons of Herod the Great, who named it in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. This city plays an important role in Jewish history and is considered a holy city.
We will begin with a visit to the ruins of the ancient Biblical city of Hammat which preceded Tiberius, then see the Roman ruins and theater on the Bereniki Hill.
After that, we may visit nearby Jewish holy sites, such as the tomb of Moses Ben Maimon (or Maimonides) who is known as the “Great Eagle of Judaism”. He is considered the most influential scholar of the Torah during The Middle Ages and also studied medicine. Following his death in 1204, he was buried in Tiberius.
Another holy site nearby is the tomb of Akiva ben Joseph. Rabbi Akiva was a second century sage who was the spiritual leader of the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome (132-135 CE). From a poor, semi-literate shepherd, he became one of Judaism’s greatest scholars and developed the exegetical method of the Mishna.
After seeing these sites, we can take a relaxing boat ride or sit and have a fish meal on promenade of Tiberius while enjoying the view.
From Tiberius, we will drive further north through the Hula Valley to the foot of the highest point in Galilee, Mount Meron to visit the tomb of another great Jewish sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. On the way, you will admire the beautiful countryside of the Upper Galilee Region with the Golan Heights visible on the horizon.
On the slope of the mountain many important Jewish sages have been buried, the most famous is Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He lived in the 2nd century AD and was a student of Rabbi Akiva and believed to be the author of the mystical teaching of Judaism, Kabbalah, also known as the Book of Zohar (Illumination).
Our next destination is the city Safed (Tsfat in Hebrew) which is also among four sacred cities in Judaism. Safed has a remarkably interesting history, present since the time of Jesus and the highest city in the Land of Israel. With a cool climate and an altitude of 900 m (2952 feet), this may very well be the city in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus said,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
Safed is an unusual Israeli city because of its beauty and its status of a center of Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah). The city was liberated during the Israeli Independence War of 1948 and we will learn about the battles fought to secure freedom. It is truly worthy of a visit to stroll through the narrow streets of the Old City which are charming and clean. Along the way, highlights include beautiful galleries of Jewish artists as well as the ruins of the medieval castle.
In the Old City, we will visit the famous synagogue of Rabbi Isaak Luria (Ari) and of the author of famous The Prepared Table. He is also credited with the introduction of his system of mysticism into religious observances. Another famous Rabbi, Yoseph Caro, lived in Safed (1488-1575 CE), and the author of Shulhan Arooch (the Code of Jewish Law).