Ancient Tiberias making a comeback

A 2,000-year-old Roman city will rise again as part of a new archaeological park.

tiberias 88 (photo credit: )
tiberias 88
(photo credit: )
A 2,000-year old Roman city will rise again in Tiberias as part of a new archeological park, Mayor Zohar Oved and the Antiquities Authority announced this week. The Berko Archeological Park honors former Finance Ministry official Ozer Berkowitz, a longtime community leader in Tiberias who died last year. It will extend across approximately 100 dunams, or about 25 acres, and include a Roman bathhouse frequently mentioned in Rabbinic literature and a Byzantine city wall. Planners hope to complete the park this summer. The park will be an upgrade of existing archeological sites in the city, and is intended to expose visitors to the history of Tiberias, which was established by Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, in the first century. The Antiquities Authority and the Economic Development Company of Tiberias have already begun work on the project, which Oved initiated, with guidance from the Berkowitz family. After the Second Lebanon War, Prime Minister Olmert appropriated NIS 22 million from the budget of the government's Program for the Reinforcement of the North for the park. Entrance to the park will be through the double-towered gate of the Roman city, which remained intact for 2,000 years and was recently uncovered after a landslide 20 years ago. The gate, on the park's south side, will lead to the Roman Cardo, a main street paved with stone tiles on which visitors will be able to walk through columns, capitals and agricultural installations that have been unearthed through the years. There will also be an "amphilawn," a several-thousand seat assembly center for outdoor performances. The Roman bathhouse, excavated in 1955-6, was in continuous operation for around 700 years until the Fatimid period in the 11th century. The city wall dates to the sixth or seventh century. The site also includes a Byzantine basilica of around 1,400 square meters, containing construction remains from the Roman period that may be from the palace of Herod Antipas. While Berko Park will likely be completed this summer, the organizers anticipate expanding it to include several nearby historical places, including an ancient house of study that is ascribed to Rabbi Yochanan, and a soon-to-be-excavated Roman theater that planners envision as a modern performance site.