Hamat Tiberias National Park

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The Tiberias Hot Springs National Park displays one of the most spectacular mosaics of ancient synagogues in Israel.  On the site, where the Hot Springs of Tiberias flow, there is also a beautifully preserved 18th century structure of a Turkish Hamam.

Major Centers of Interest

Hot springs

Ancient bathing facilities

Synagogue from the Mishnaic and Talmudic period

Turkish Hamam

Antiques display hall

Particulars of the Centers of Interest

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.

 

Identity card

Hammat Tverya has been declared a National Park and covers 13 dunams.  The site preserves the remains of a Jewish town, including ancient synagogues from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods, hot springs and a structure that served as a Hamam in the Ottoman period.

 

Reasons for Declaration:

  • The synagogue containing a magnificent mosaic from the Talmudic period
  • The Turkish Hamam built in the 18th century


Location in Israel:

The Hammat Tverya National Park lies on the western shore of Lake Kinneret, south of Tiberias.  The entrance to the park is from Road 90, between the kilometer marks of 412-413. 

Observation Points


The large grass plot on the site gives a view of the Kinneret and the Golan Heights.

Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority​

  • Preservation, restoration and reconstruction of the ancient synagogue
  • Preservation and restoration of the Turkish Hamam
  • Preparation of the site for public visits - constructing a parking area, toilets, picnic area and explanatory signs
  • Making the accessible for disabled persons
  • Organizing events and activities for the whole family on festivals and holidays

Geography


Lake Kinneret lies at the heart of the Jordan valley.  The Hammat Tverya National Park on the western side of the Kinneret borders on the slopes of the eastern lower Galilee.  One of the characteristics of the region is mineral-rich hot springs, flowing along the fault lines of the valley.  Such are the springs at Hammat Tverya, Hammat Gader and the underwater springs in Lake Kinneret.  The various faults along the Kinneret serve as pipelines for the water lying at various levels.  On its way up from the depths of the earth, the water collects minerals before it emerges aboveground. 

 

History and Archaeology

Hammat Tverya is the elder sister of Tiberias, one of the fortified cities mentioned in the Bible within the land of the Tribe of Naftali:   "And the fortified cities were Ziddim-zer, and Hammath, and Rakkath, and Chinnereth" (Joshua 19:35).  In the Byzantine period Hammat was surrounded by its own wall.  Parts of the southern wall of Hammat can be seen south of the hot spring in the National Park and south of the medicinal baths.  Part of the northern wall can be seen north of the Rimonim Mineral Tverya Hotel (formerly - Ganney Hammat).  From their remains the walls of Hammat Tverya appear to have surrounded an area of approximately 180 dunams.

Only after the establishment of Tiberias (First Century CE) was the place called Hammat Tverya, to differentiate it from other places named "Hammat".  According to the Talmud, Hammat (also called Hamtan) was separated from Tiberias by only one mile (Megilla 4, 72). The area between the cities remained unbuilt because it served as a cemetery.

Healing properties were attributed to the waters of Hammat Tverya already in ancient times, and therefore the Halachic scholars permitted bathing in them even on Shabbat.  In the Roman period, luxurious baths were built there, attracting people who sought healing from all over the empire.  A coin struck in Tiberias in the time of the Emperor Trajan (approximately 100 CE) displays the goddess of health, Hygeia, sitting on a rock from which a spring is flowing.

In 1921 Nahum Slouschz began archaeological digs at Hammat.  The very fact of the digs was a historic event, since they were the first conducted in Israel by a Jewish archaeologist.  The workmen were members of the Gdud Ha'Ivri, who discovered the site while laying the Tiberias-Tsemah road (presently the location of the Tiberias Hot Springs).   During the explorations a small synagogue was found that had been constructed in the 4th century CE.  Among the findings were a seven-branched candelabra carved in chalk, a piece of a lattice on which there was a relief of a candelabra and a stone chair of the type called "Cathedra deMoshe".  The remains of this synagogue are no longer visible.

 

How to get there: The National Park is located at the southern entrance to the city of Tiberias, near the Hot Baths.

 

Length of walk: 30-60 minutes.

 

Recommended season: All year round.

 

Insist on: The Zodiac mosaic.  Hamam Suleiman museum.  Hot springs and paddling pool.

Guides for families and individuals at weekends and on holidays by the Community Park Volunteers, between 10:00 - 13:00

 

 Opening Hours

 The park is closed about one hour before the times given below:

 

Summer Time:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 17:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 16:00

 

Standard Time (Winter):

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 16:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 15:00

 

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesah:  8:00 - 13:00

 

Communication

Telephone:                   04-6725287

Entrance Fees

 Single: Adult:  NIS 14;  Child:  NIS 7

Student:  NIS 12

Group (over 30 persons): Adult: NIS 13;  Child:  NIS 6

Further information

pdf Click here for site pamphlet


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