The town Gamla was founded early in the Maccabean period,
about 200 years before its destruction in 67 C.E. That year the Jews revolted,
and the Emperor Nero sent his greatest general, Vespasian, conqueror of
Germany and England, to suppress the rebellion. Supported by 60,000 troops,
he invaded northern Israel as a prelude to an attack on Jerusalem.
Aided by the treachery of the renegade Jewish general
Joseph ben Mattahias, who later became famous as the historian “Josephus”,
the major Jewish fortified areas, Tsippori and Yidefat, were quickly overcome.
No bases for resistance remained other than small isolated strongholds.
Gamla was one of these.
Situated on a steeply peaked, humped-back” small
mountain, Gamla (camel) was a perfect natural fortress, surrounded
by impregnable gorges on three sides. On the fourth side a deep trench
was dug in the ground and topped by an imposing wall. Inside this compound
lived a Jewish community, fully determined to withstand the powerful Roman
[photo courtesy of
attacks were made on the Jews of Gamla. The first produced a thorough
defeat of the attacking Romans. The weight of the myriad roman soldiers
encased in their heavy armor as they charged up on top of the roofs
of the steeply terraced houses caused a cascading collapse of the
heavy stone buildings. The crushed and disheveled Romans fell easy
prey to the Jewish defenders, while the rest beat a hasty retreat.
The siege of Gamla followed this first encounter.
After a sustained catapulting of boulders and firebrands, the Jewish defense
positions were totally destroyed and the inhabitants too weakened to mount
further resistance. Josephus writes that five thousand Jews leapt into
the gorges rather than be taken alive. This is certainly credible, since
it is known that Roman soldiers were highly rewarded for young captives,
who were then used for depraved purposes. Tragically, the Romans still
managed to capture one thousand and massacre four thousand Jews. Gamla
was never again inhabited.
Gamla is situated in a large
ravine in the Southern Golan Heights. It overlooks the Kinneret (Sea of
Galilee), with spectacular, commanding views on all sides. A lookout post
near the entrance to the Gamla Reserve provides a magnificent birds-eye
view of the historical site. To fully appreciate Gamla, you should take
the1½ hour hiking trail leading to the ancient ruins, where a synagogue,
mikveh, houses, etc. have been restored. The adventurous may continue
on the marked path to the 150 ft. “Gamla waterfall” which surges powerfully
during winter and early spring. There is also the ruins of a Byzantine
city and a number of dolmens — ancient burial mounds — scattered on the
Before starting at Gamla, you
may wish to stop in at the Archeological Musuem in nearby
where they have an excellent video presentation on Gamla several times