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.