Tiberias-Hammat (hot springs)

Tiberias has been famed as a spa center since the Roman period, and its hot springs are as popular now as they were then. After you’ve finished having a soak, catch up on some history by visiting the fourth-century synagogue next door with its well-preserved, richly-patterned mosaic floor.

The mosaic betrays the influence of Hellenistic and Roman culture even on pious Jews during this period with the central portion depicting the sun god Helios surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.

Click here for the map.

The Hot Springs – within the national park, 17 thermo-mineral springs flow at a temperature of about 600C, with a saline concentration of 36.5 gr. per liter, the majority in the form of chlorides of sodium and calcium and some potassium, bromide and sulfate. The water flows in a system of underground channels to the Tiberias Hot Baths. The channels are built with chimneys to release steam pressure and visitors to the park can see the steam pouring out of them. Surplus water that does not flow into the Tiberias hot baths are collected in a pool located on-site.

The surplus water, and the water returning from the baths after use, is collected in a Mekorot facility located within the site, and is conveyed to the National Saline Water Carrier.

Severus’ Synagogue – the synagogue is located within the precincts of the ancient town of Hammat Tverya, close to the southern wall and the gate of the city. This synagogue underwent three stages.

The first synagogue was built about 230 CE, on the remains of an earlier public building. From this synagogue, which was apparently destroyed in the 3rd century, only a small piece of mosaic remains that is displayed at the southern edge of the central mosaic, on a slightly lower level.

The second synagogue existed in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, and left behind a glorious mosaic floor, one of the earliest discovered in synagogues in Israel. The mosaic is divided into three panels. The northern section shows two lions, flanking nine inscriptions in Greek memorializing donors; in the middle – a spectacular Zodiac surrounding an image of Helios, the sun god; and in the southern section – the Ark of the Torah with Jewish symbols such as two seven-branched candelabras, a shofar and a lulav.

At the four corners of the mosaic there are images of four women symbolizing the four seasons of the year. Agricultural crops and pieces of clothing relate to the seasons. One of the inscriptions mentions a person named Severus who grew up in the home of the “Illustrious Patriarchs”. Some call this synagogue after him – Severus’ Synagogue.

Showing the sun god in the middle of the mosaic and images of naked men in the Zodiac signs of Libra and Aquarius seem questionable. What have all these got to do with a synagogue? Similar images have also been found in other synagogues, such as the one in Bet Alfa. The multiplicity of Greek names mentioned in the inscriptions is also very prominent. All this might indicate that Judaism felt sufficiently secure and was not afraid that such expressions might threaten its status.

The Severus Synagogue appears to have been destroyed in an earthquake at the beginning of the 5th century. In its place a larger structure was built containing a hall divided into three spaces by two rows of columns. At the southern end, beyond the shed, a semi-circular praying niche is displayed. This synagogue functioned up to the 11th century with slight changes.

The synagogue underwent preservation, restoration and reconstruction, and it is surrounded by glass walls enabling eye contact with the scenery, remains of ancient residential buildings and the later synagogue. The structure is air-conditioned.

Hamam Suleiman – in the early Muslim period (8th century), there was no real settlement at Hammat Tverya, but the baths continued to operate. Muslim geographers mention the baths in their writings. The Suleiman Hamam was built in 1780, in the period of Jezzar Pasha, ruler of the Damascus District. The Hamam served the inhabitants of the region and the pilgrims who came to be healed in its waters up to 1944.

The building of the Hamam has been reconstructed, and a visit there is a unique experience (the hall is air-conditioned). The building serves as a museum documenting the customs of the bathers in the Hamam.

The “Roman Spring” – a small spring whose waters flow freely in an open channel. The spring gives an opportunity for visitors to understand the heat of the waters and their saline taste. The spring tends to dry up when the level of Lake Kinneret drops.

Remains of Ancient Baths – at the southern end of the site remains of baths from the Roman period were found. The area of the baths has not yet been explored, except for a plastered pool that served for bathing and stone arches which supported an upper structure that did not survive.

Opening times

  • Summer hours:Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 – 08:00
  • Friday and holiday eves:16:00 – 08:00
  • Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 – 08:00
  • Friday and holiday eves:15:00 – 08:00
  • Holiday eves:13:00 – 08:00
  • Yom Kippur eve:13:00 – 08:00

Entrance fees

Type Fee
Adult ₪ 14.00
Child ₪ 7.00
Adult in group ₪ 13.00
Child in group ₪ 6.00
Student ₪ 12.00
Israeli senior citizen ₪ 7.00

 

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