Ottoman Rule – Tiberias

In 1624, the Sultan recognized the Druze leader Fakhr-al-Din II as Lord of Arabistan which stretched from Aleppo to Egypt. He made Tiberias his capital. The 1660 Tiberias was raised to the ground by the Druze. This resulted in abandonment of the city by Jews. Meanwhile Safed recovered and became an important Jewish centre in the Galilee.
In the 1720s, the Bedouin ruler Dhaher al-Omar, fortified the Tiberias and signed an agreement with the local Bedouins. There was great admiration for Dhaher, especially his war against the bandits on the roads.
Richard Pococke, who visited Tiberias in 1727, notes the building of a fort to the north of the town, and the fortification of the old walls. During this period there was a major dispute with the pasha of Damascus.
In the 1740, Tiberias came under the rule of Dhaher. Jewish families were encouraged to settle in Tiberias. Chaim Abulafia of Smyrna was invited to rebuild the Jewish community. The synagogue he built is still remains.
Under instructions from the Ottoman Porte, Suleyman Pasha of Damascus laid siege to Tiberias in 1742. His main intention was to eliminate Dhaher. However, the siege was unsuccessful. In the following year, Suleyman set out to repeat the attempt with even greater reinforcements, but he died en route.
In 1775, Ahmed el-Jazzar ‘the Butcher’, brought peace to the region and in 1780, many Polish Jews settled in the town. There was an influx of rabbis in the 18th and 19th centuries who re-established it as a centre for Jewish learning.
The town was devastated by the 1837 by the great Galilee earthquake. Six hundred people, including nearly 500 Jews, died. An American expedition found Tiberias still in a state of disrepair in 1847/1848.
In 1842 there were about 4,000 inhabitants, around a third of whom were Jews, the rest being Turks and a few Christians. In 1850 there were three synagogues in Tiberias. There was vibrant Sephardi community, which consisted of 80 families, with Ashkenazim, Poles and Russians, numbering about 100 families. It was reported that the Jewish inhabitants of Tiberias enjoyed more peace and security than those of Safed.
In 1863 Christian and Muslims made up three-quarters of the population (2,000 to 4,000). In 1901, there were around 2000 Jews in Tiberias out of a population of 3 600. By 1912 the population had risen to 6,500. This included 4,500 Jews, 1,600 Muslims and the rest were Christian.
In 1885, a Scottish doctor and minister, David Watt Torrance, opened a mission hospital in Tiberias. The hospital took patients of all races and religions. In 1894, it moved to larger premises at Beit abu Shamnel abu Hannah. In 1923 his son, Dr Herbert Watt Torrance, was appointed head of the hospital. After the establishment of the State of Israel, it became a maternity hospital supervised by the Israeli Department of Health. After its closure in 1959, the building became a guesthouse until 1999, when it was renovated and reopened as the luxury Scottie Hotel.