There are many nice beaches around Lake Kinneret, but for those less inclined to go far there are also beaches in Tiberias. Hamat Teverya is part of an ancient village that predated Tiberias by thousands of years, but became incorporated into it as the city expanded.
Hamat Teverya National Park
Hamat in Hebrew means a hot spring, and the springs here were well-known in antiquity for their healing properties. Hamat is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as being the southernmost fortified city of the tribe of Naphtali. There was probably a Biblical city here called Hammath (Joshua 19:35). The Jewish village of Hamat Teverya was located to the south and next to the Roman city of Tiberias. A wall was built around Tiberias in the Byzantine period and included Hamat Teverya (Teverya is the Hebrew for Tiberias) . Of particular interest in this park are its hot springs and ancient synagogue.
There are seventeen hot saline springs deep below the surface of the grounds of Hamat Teverya National Park. This type of spring is formed when groundwater comes in contact with shallow magna (molten rock) or circulates through faults deep in the earth’s crust. The water will usually contain a considerable amount of minerals. The water from the springs here emerges at 60 degrees C and is channeled to the nearby baths across the road, and then into the River Jordan. Steam may be seen escaping from the round chimneys built in the park above the springs. The small pools can be used for bathing.
Within the park are the ruins of an ancient synagogue. Three synagogues were built in this location, one on top of the other. The first one was built in about 230 CE on the remains of a public building, and the second in the 3rd or 4th centuries. This second synagogue was destroyed by an earthquake in the 5th century, and a larger synagogue was built on top of the ruins and functioned until the 8th century.
The impressive enclosed mosaic floor you see here is from the second synagogue. It has three panels. The northern-most panel shows two lions with dedications to donors. In the center is the wheel of the Zodiac surrounding Helios, the sun god. The southern panel contains the Holy Ark with Jewish symbols – a seven branched candelabra, a shofar, and a lulav.
All of this raises the question - what is the image of a sun god doing in a synagogue? The answer would seem to be that the zodiac had become part of Jewish culture, just as it was part of Christian and Persian cultures and was not thought of in pagan terms. (See a discussion of the same issue in the Beit Alpha Synagogue). Do watch the movie which incorporates the mosaic into the presentation.
Other features of this park are the remains of a Roman bathhouse, the city gate of the southern wall of Byzantine Tiberias, and Hamam Suleiman. The latter is a reconstructed Turkish bathhouse built initially in 1780 that continued to function until the 1940’s. It also functions as a small museum containing findings from Hamat.
Directions: Enter “Hamat Tiberias National Park” into Waze. There is parking on the other side of route 90. The park is open from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM Sunday to Thursday and Saturday and 8.00 AM to 4.00 PM on Friday. The site closes 1 hour earlier in the winter. Their phone number is 04 672 5287. This is their website.
There are several small (hot) pools at Hamat Teverya.
The movie in the park incorporates the synagogue mosaic into its presentation.
Tiberias Hot Springs.
Tiberias Hot Springs is across the road (Route 90) from the Hamat Teverya National Park. It receives hot spring water from the park. This water is rich in sulphuric and hydrochloric acids and calcium salts. The facility has warm indoor and outdoor mineral pools. Also, spa treatments, massages, mud face baths, wet and dry saunas, and a restaurant. There is also a regular outdoor swimming pool surrounded by green lawns. The building is currently open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, but in non-corona times it was open until later. Admission is 88 nis for adults and 45 nis for children 3-12 years. There is an additional charge for a locker and for a towel. But check on these times and prices before arriving. Their phone number is 04 612 3600. Many reviews are positive, but others remark that the place is a bit run down. Which is to say that this is not an ultra-modern facility. Directions: Enter Tiberias Hot Springs” into Waze. There is free parking by the side of the building.
Beaches and swimming for everyone
There are many beaches around Lake Kinneret. The following are in Tiberias and that are either free or offer something a bit different from the others around the lake:
Ganim Beach is a free municipal beach. You pay only for use of the deckchairs. There is green grass, shaded areas, a lifeguard and WC’s. Enter “Ganim Beach” into Waze.
Gai Beach Water Park has a private beach and a waterpark. There are 7 different water slides and a large wave pool. There are plenty of shaded areas, a children’s world play area, and restaurants. Directions: Enter “Gai Beach” into Waze. This is its website.
The Separate Beach offers separate swimming for the religious public. It has a life guard. It is open 9.00 am-5.00 pm and is closed on Shabbat. It is across the road from the Hamat Teverya National Park. Enter “Separate Beach Tiberias” into Waze. Their phone numbers are 04 679 2229 and 050 723 4487.
Aqua Kef. This has a floating obstacle course with trampolines, slides and swings. There are four areas for children of different ages and abilities - family park (easy), extreme park (average), olympic park, and kids park (3-6 years). There is also a beach area for swimming and places for sitting. It is best to check on the day's schedule as the place may be temporarily closed to the general public and to order tickets on line. Their phone number is 04 381 1101. Directions: Enter “Aqua Kef” into Waze. This is their website.
Aqua Kef is a popular location with floating activities.