Hamat Tiberias

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Zodiac mosaic floor, synagogue in Hamat Tiberias

Hamat Tiberias is an ancient archaeological site and an Israeli national park known as Hamat Tverya National Park that is located on the Tiberias-Zemach road that runs along the shore of the Kinneret to Tiberias. Second century Hammata is believed to have been built on the ruins of the biblical city of Hammath.[1]


Tiberias thermal baths, 1925

The 17 springs of Hamat Tiberias have been known since antiquity for their curative properties. The site was discovered in 1920 when the Tiberias-Zemach road was being constructed.

The Hamei Tveriya natural hot springs are located on the grounds of the park. According to the sages of the Talmud, the springs were constantly hot as they stream past the entrance of Hell.[2]


Ancient Greek inscription on the Hellenistic mosaic floor belonging to the synagogue in Hamat Tiberias

The Hammat Tiberias Synagogue is an ancient synagogue on the outskirts of Tiberias, Israel, located near the hot springs just south of the city. The synagogue dates to 286 and 337 CE, when Tiberias was the seat of the Sanhedrin. Two synagogue sites have been excavated at Hammat Tiberias. The first, uncovered in 1921 by Nachum Slouschz, working under the sponsorship of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society, was a watershed event in the history of Israeli archaeology as the first archaeological dig conducted under Jewish auspices.[3] A limestone menorah uncovered there is now on display at the Israel Museum. The mosaic floor is made up of three panels featuring the zodiac and Helios the sun god. Women symbolizing the four seasons appear in each corner.[4]

The second synagogue site, excavated by Moshe Dothan, is noted for its elaborate mosaic floor. The synagogue, dated to the last half of the fourth century C.E., was named after an inscription that reads, in Greek, "Severus the pupil of the most illustrious patriarchs," an apparent reference to the leaders of the Jewish community.

In the center of one large mosaic is the Sun god, Helios, sitting in his chariot holding the celestial sphere and a whip. Nine of the 12 signs of the zodiac survived intact. Another panel shows a Torah ark flanked by two the seven-branched menorahs and other Jewish ritual objects.


  1. ^ The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Jerusalem, 1972, p.486
  2. ^ Zev Vilnay (June 1978). Legends of Galilee, Jordan, and Sinai. Jewish Publication Society of America. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-8276-0106-2. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  3. ^ S. Fine, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a new Jewish Archaeology (Cambridge, 2005), 22-7
  4. ^ Hamat Tiberias National Park, An opulent synagogue and ancient medical baths

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Coordinates: 32°46′6.51″N 35°32′54.43″E / 32.7684750°N 35.5484528°E / 32.7684750; 35.5484528