Old Cemetery Tiberias

South of  the lake there is a large cemetery climbing the slopes of the hill. Many famous sages are buried here. Some tombstones here are so old their inscriptions difficult to read. The ancient burial ground is still in use.

This cemetery is very sacred due to a tradition that the resurrection of the dead will begin in this area. The tradition comes from the Babylonian Talmud, which notes that Tiberias is the lowest of all cities and will “arise” even before Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:2). Maimonides wrote that the resurrection in Tiberias would begin precisely 40 years before anywhere else.

Tiberias dates back to the time when Herod Antipas founded what he hoped would be a showcase Roman city, but contrary to Jewish law, he built it on top of graves. Hence many Jews would not live there.  Eventually, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, rebel against Rome and author of the Zohar, came to bathe in Tiberias’ hot springs and was cured of a skin ailment. He then conducted a ceremony to “purify Tiberias of its dead,” after which the city rose to prominence.

It is said to be the site where the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court of Jewish law) will reamerge first before relocating to the Temple in Jerusalem. The cemetery dates back to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who built the city in 17 BCE.