In the Bethsaida Valley, in the southeastern section of the park, we come to Tel Mishpa, which in the First Temple period was the site of the town of Tzar, capital of the Kingdom of Geshur, which possessed a palace, a sturdy city wall and some impressive buildings. Geshur maintained close relations with King David, who married Maachah, daughter of King Ptolemy (Talmai) of Geshur, who gave birth to King David’s son Absalom. Because of the large quantity of silt that accumulated in this valley to the northeast of the Kinneret, secondary channels developed here to circumvent the River Jordan. Near the point where the Jordan flows into the Kinneret these channels combine into a single river mouth.
The name Bethsaida (Beit Tzeida) means “House of Fishing,” and in the Second Temple period, it was the site of a prosperous fishing village. Philip, the son of Herod the Great, developed the region and changed the name of the village to Julias in honor of the Roman Emperor Augustus’s daughter Julia the Elder. Three of Jesus’ disciples – Philip, Peter and his brother Andrew – were born in Bethsaida. Jesus visited the village, and in old Christian tradition, it was the site of two miracles: the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the miracle of the blind man whose sight was restored. Later Christian tradition, however, attributed the miracle of the loaves and fishes to Tabgha.
In the early stages of the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans the town was destroyed in a local battle in which the Jewish troops were led by the historian Josephus Flavius (Yosef Ben Matityahu), and its ruins were uncovered by the American Biblical scholar Edward Robinson in the mid-19th century. Portions of the Biblical city and the fishing village have also been revealed in recent years and there is now a sign-posted footpath at the site.