Ancient Cemetery of Tiberias


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Along the promenade that is found south of Tiberias, one can't help but notice a large cemetery that climbs the slope across the street. Some of the tombstones in the cemetery are so old that the inscription upon them can no longer be read. Others are more recent as the cemetery is still in use.
There is a tradition that the resurrection of the dead will begin here. The tradition is rooted in the Babylonian Talmud which notes that Tiberias is the lowest of all cities and will arise even before Jerusalem. Maimonides, in his writings, wrote that the resurrection in Tiberias will begin forty years before anywhere else.
Herod Antipas founded Tiberias in the hope that it would be a showcase Roman city but built the city on top of graves, an act that is forbidden by Jewish law. As a result, no self-respecting Jew would live there. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was known as a rebel against the Roman leadership as well as the author of the mystical Zohar and he bathed in the hot springs in Tiberias and was subsequently cured of a skin ailment. He then conducted a ceremony to purify Tiberias and soon after Tiberias rose to prominence.
Many famous, holy Jewish personalities are buried in the cemetery. Rabbi Isaiah ben Avraham HaLevi Horowitz- also known by the acronym "Shlah"- was a renowned leader, kabbalist and hlachic guide from the seventeenth century. Rabbi Nachman Horodenker was a student of the Baal Shem Tov and paternal grandfather of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. Numerous other students of the Baal Shem Tov are also buried in the cemetery.


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