What is the difference between Hamat Tiberias (Hamat Tverya) and Tiberias (Tverya)?
Hamat Tverya National Park is in the ancient village of Hamat. Hamat [not to be confused with Al-Hama] is much older than Tiberias. “Hama” means hot spring. It was one of the fortified cities mentioned in the Bible within the Tribe of Naftali:
“And the fortified cities were Tziddim, Tzer, and Hamat, and Rakkat, and Chinneret” (Joshua 19:35).
Established around 20 CE, it was named in honour of the 2nd Emperor of the Roman Empire Tiberius. As a result of the founding of Tiberias, Hamat became Hamat Tverya. The distance between the two cities was one mile (Megilla 4, 72). It is most noteworthy that in the Byzantine period Hamat had its own wall which surrounded an area of approximately 180 dunams.
Three Hamat Synagogues
- The first synagogue was built about 286 CE, on the remains of an earlier public building and was apparently destroyed in 337 CE. This synagogue is from the Mishnaic and Talmudic period when Tiberias was the seat of the Sanhedrin. This synagogue was uncovered in 1921 by Nachum Slouschz.
- The second synagogue, the Severus Synagogue, was excavated by Moshe Dothan, existed in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE. The Severus Synagogue left behind a glorious mosaic floor, one of the earliest discovered in synagogues in Israel and one of the most spectacular mosaics of ancient synagogues in Israel. The synagogue is located within the the ancient town of Hamat Tverya, close to the southern wall and the gate of the city of Tiberias.
- The Severus Synagogue was replaced with a larger structure which functioned up to the 11th century.
The Severus Synagogue Mosaic
The Hamat Tverya National Park displays one of the most spectacular mosaics of ancient synagogues in Israel. The mosaic floor is made up of three panels featuring the zodiac, and Helios, the sun god. Women who symbolize the four seasons of nature appear in each corner.
- The northern section shows two lions, flanking nine inscriptions in Greek memorializing donors. One of the inscriptions mentions a person named Severus who grew up in the home of the “Illustrious Patriarchs”.
- In the middle – a spectacular Zodiac surrounding an image of Helios, the sun god sitting in his chariot holding the celestial sphere and a whip. Nine of the 12 signs of the zodiac survived intact.
- 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.
Tiberias Hot Springs – Hamat Tverya National Park
On the Tiberias Hot Springs National Park site, 17 thermo-mineral springs of Tiberias, the water flows in underground channels to the Hamam. Water temperature is about 600C, with a saline concentration of 36.5 gr. per liter. Curative properties were attributed to the waters of Hamat Tverya already in ancient times, and therefore the Halachic scholars permitted bathing in them even on Shabbat. in addition the Romans erected luxurious baths, attracting people from all over the empire. The modern resort is called “Hamei Tveriya”.
Turkish Hamam Suleiman – Hamat Tverya National Park
Even though the village had become depopulated in the early Muslim period (8th century), the Hamam continued to serve the inhabitants of the region. Jezzar Pasha, ruler of the Damascus District built the Turkish Hamam Suleiman in 1780. Pilgrims continued to come to be healed in its waters up to 1944. It is beautifully preserved.
Chimneys in the channels release the steam pressure. Visitors to the park can see the steam pouring out.
The Roman Spring – Hamat Tverya National Park
A small spring whose waters flow freely in an open channel.
Remains of Ancient Baths – Hamat Tverya National Park
At the southern end of the site you can see remains of ancient bathing facilities from the Roman period. However they have not yet been explored.
Who discovered Hamat Tverya?
Members of the Gdud Ha’Ivri discovered the site while paving the Tiberias-Tsemah road. This road runs along the shore of the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias. Nahum Slouschz, a Jewish archaeologist, immediately began archaeological digs at Hamat in 1921 under the sponsorship of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society. The workmen in the dig were members of the Gdud Ha’Ivri who discovered the site.
- The Hamat 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.
- Length of walk: 30-60 minutes.
- Best season: All year round.
- Difficult to park. You may park the car at Rabbi Meir’s tomb – it’s not far to walk.
- Telephone: 04-6725287
- Click here for site pamphlet