Israel's Hot Springs
Throughout the world, hot springs and mineral baths can be found in many locations. These curative waters are prized for their ability to soak into the skin and treat many varied ailments, from skin disorders to muscle aches, as well as everything in-between.
Israel's Hamat Gader, located southeast of Tiberias, is unique in that it is not only a valued health resort, but also an archeological site of some note, and a beautiful area with a stunning view of the Kinneret and the Golan Heights.
Ancient civilizations most certainly knew about the hot springs of Hamat Gader. The "Hot Springs of Gadera" already was a functioning bathhouse in the 2nd century A.D., and was noted by historians of the time. The Byzantines erected a bathhouse there in the 4th century, and Jewish sages and rabbis wrote of visiting the baths - there was even a synagogue built there for their use.
The bathhouses is a storehouse of treasures for archeologists, who began to excavate the area in the 1930s; the latest excavations were undertaken in 1979, and, now completed, allow visitors to walk around the area and get a feel for the amazing structures which were constructed there. Greek and Arabic inscriptions have been discovered on the pillars and walls of the structure - one inscription tells of an extensive network of pools, halls, and fountains which was erected on the site. The pools were built in such a way as to encourage visitors to move from pool to pool, gradually acclimating to the hotter and hotter waters. The hottest waters are at the spring itself, and reach 50 degrees centigrade - no one enters the actual spring, but some hardy folks make it to the bath which is directly next to the spring, and whose waters are not too much colder than the spring itself.
The second archeological site is the synagogue itself, notably the mosaic floor, which depicts stunning geometric patterns, flowers, trees and fruit, and lions, a symbol of the House of Judah. The benches were laid out in a circular pattern, with the bima, the center stage of any synagogue, in the middle. The synagogue has been dated to the 5th or 6th century A.D., attesting to a vibrant Jewish community in Israel of the time which traveled, studied and built new houses of worship.
Hamat Gader is today a popular site, not only for people seeking cures for ailments and disorders, but also for many visitors who simply want to relax in the soothing hot springs of the Hamat Gader mineral baths. There are many hotels for people to stay at, and even separate bathing hours for men and women to accommodate the modest Orthodox public as well as Moslems who are uncomfortable with mixed bathing.