Located within the Hamat Tiberias National Park, historically the economy of the small Jewish city of Hamat, south of Tiberias, was based mainly on its hot springs. Seventeen springs, emerging from dozens of meters below the earth’s surface, have been famous for their healing powers since antiquity. The synagogue was first discovered in the 1920s. A seven-branch stone candelabrum found there is now on display at the Israel Museum.
The synagogue changed form a number of times over the generations. Visible remains at the site belong to the “Severus Synagogue,” built between 286 and 337 CE, during the
period in which the Sanhedrin had its headquarters in Tiberias. It received its name from one of the Greek inscriptions found at the site. The highlight of the synagogue is its three-paneled mosaic floor, the earliest synagogue mosaic floor in the country. The central panel depicts a spectacular Wheel of the Zodiac, in the center of which is the figure of the sun-god Helios, driving his chariot across the sky. In each of the four corners of the central panels are
figures of women symbolizing each of the four seasons.
At a later stage, in the fifth or sixth century CE, a larger synagogue was constructed on top of it, whose ruins, which can be seen on the southern side, include a large, semicircular niche facing Jerusalem.
Conservation and development plan for the synagogue
Stage 1: Enclosure of the synagogue and creation of suitable conditions for interpretation, including indoor and outdoor lighting and conservation of the synagogue mosaic
Estimated cost: NIS 2,500,000
Stage 2: Production of a film to be shown inside the enclosed synagogue, and creation of an audiovisual presentation on screens and on the mosaic
Estimated cost: NIS 1,000,000
Depending on the extent of the film’s production.