The astounding Arbel Cliffs, with their ancient caves and the Arbel Valley
slung on high between the heights of Hattin and Mount Arbel itself, are
steeped in history. In Jesus' time, this was the main route from Nazareth
to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Gospels indicate that
Jesus passed this way several times. By virtue of its central location, the
Arbel witnessed the passage not only of regular wayfarers, but of armies,
conquerors and rebels as well.
Time and again the Arbel and its caves served as the backdrop to battles:
The Jewish settlement of Arbel was conquered by the Greek military
leader Bacchides in 161 BCE, and those who survived escaped to the
caves in the cliffs. In 38 BCE, the rebels against Herod the Great fled to the caves, but a few months later the terrible way to annihilate them was discovered. Eventually Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, had rule over the Galilee and the unrest against the regime grew more pronounced there. In the year 66 CE, the area of the caves was fortified by the Jewish rebel leader Joshephus Flavius, but this time too, the result was tragic.
The Roman commander Titus took control of the mountain and under his command the area was razed during the Roman suppression of the Great Revolt in 70 CE.
However, two ancient synagogues – one on top of the mountain; one at
its foot – indicate that the local Jewish population managed to survive the bloody conflicts and thrived centuries later. Among the Jewish settlers of Arbel, was the priestly family named "Yeshua" (English: Jesus)!