Israeli history photo of the week: Ancient city of Tiberias

JPost special feature: A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

July 28, 2011 19:30
1 minute read.

Tiberias. (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)


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The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978.

The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

This week's selection displays snapshots of the city Tiberias--a Jewish center in the Galilee for the past 2,000 years.

The city was built on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee in the year 20 CE in honor of Roman emperor Tiberius.  It has been a center of Jewish life and learning for 2,000 years and is considered the fourth holiest city to the Jewish people after Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin (supreme court) moved to Tiberias.

Between the 2nd and 10th centuries, Tiberias was the largest city in the Galilee and it drew great Jewish scholars where major works such as the Mishna and the Palestinian Talmud were written. Jesus was active in the area of Tiberias, and some of the sites commemorating his life are located nearby.

Tiberias and the Jewish community were often under assault by invading armies - of Christians, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, and Saladin's army. In 1204, the great Jewish rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) died in Egypt and was buried in Tiberias.  Years later, In the 16th century, some of the Jews who had been expelled from Spain fled to the Ottoman Empire and to Tiberias.

Hundreds of Jews of Tiberias perished in an earthquake in 1837 - yet by 1901, Jews numbered 2000 out of the town's 3,600 residents. In the 20th century, there were skirmishes between the Arab and Jewish residents of the region, particularly during the 1936-39 wave of Arab terrorist attacks and during the 1948 War of Israel's Independence.

Today, Tiberias is a popular lakeside resort, as well as a pilgrimage destination for those who wish to visit ancient graves of rabbis and Biblical sites.

More photos can be viewed at

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