Gamla

The cliff of Gamla
The cliff of Gamla

According to ancient Jewish sources such as the Talmud, Gamla is referred to as a city surrounded by a wall which has existed since the time of the conquest of the Promised Land by the sons of Israel. The recording of the history of the city was likely intended to support the Jewish repatriates who settled here after the Babylonian captivity. Through excavation, archaeologists have found only artifacts of the Jewish culture which means no other nationalities were living in the region. 

 

Joseph, the son of Mataffia (Yosef ben Matatiyahu in Hebrew), was a Jewish military leader and one of the leaders of the anti-Roman rebels in Galilee. He was also a renowned historian known best by his Latin name, Josephus Flavius (37 -100 AD). Through his extensive writings, he chronicled the history of the Jewish people from the time of the creation of the world through the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-72 AD). 

The wall of Gamla visible
The wall of Gamla visible

Among his work, Josephus Flavius provides a detailed description of Gamla,

 "Sloping down from a towering peak is a spur-like a long shaggy neck, behind which rises a symmetrical hump so that the outline resembles that of a camel; hence the name, the exact form of the word being obscured by the local pronunciation."

 

Among his work, Josephus Flavius provides a detailed description of Gamla,

"Sloping down from a towering peak is a spur-like a long shaggy neck, behind which rises a symmetrical hump so that the outline resembles that of a camel; hence the name, the exact form of the word being obscured by the local pronunciation."

 

The name of the settlement is an Aramaic word which translates as camel, probably inspired by the summit of the mount which resembles a hump. 

 

Josephus Flavius oversaw the defense fortification works in Gamla and ordered a wall to be built around the eastern border of the settlement which was documented in his book, Antiquities of the Jews, 

"nature having thus made the town well-nigh impregnable, Josephus had walled it round and given it the additional protection of trenches and underground passages" (4:17).

 

King Agrippa II (27-93 AD), the great-grandson of Herod the Great and the last king of Judea, openly supported Rome and marched with his army against the anti-Roman rebels. In the Acts of the Apostles, however, he is described as a person who knows Jewish customs, which inspired the Apostle Paul to have hope for a just decision of his trial,

"King Agrippa! I consider myself fortunate that today I can defend myself before you in everything that the Jews accuse me of, especially since you know all the customs and controversial opinions of the Jews” (Acts 26: 2-3).

 

Indeed, King Agrippa had the courage to declare Paul innocent, 

"Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar’” (Acts 26:32). 

 

Despite Paul’s praise, Agrippa was not known for his morality.

 

Upon learning of the rebellious Jews in the settlement of Gamla, Agrippa led his army to the walls and began a siege which lasted seven months. The campaign ended unsuccessfully and ingloriously for the king when he was forced to lift the siege and withdraw the troops.

 

Following the retreat, the army was replaced by three legions under the leadership of Rome’s Emperor Vespasian. Although the forces were experienced and battle-hardened, it was not easy to penetrate the defenses of the rebels in the settlement.

 

After a month-long siege, the Roman troops managed to break into the settlement, but they were immediately attacked by the Jews and suffered heavy losses. Vespasian restored the morale of the soldiers when he addressed them with a speech,

"What might happen to anyone you must face like men. Remember, it is in the nature of war that bloodless victories do not happen, and Fortune is a fickle-footed ally ... If it is vulgar to crow over victory, it is just as cowardly to whine under defeat. You never know how long either will last. A first-class soldier never lets success go to his head; that is why failure never gets him down ... " (Jewish War 4: 27-55)

Roman assault weapon restored
Roman assault weapon restored

After the inspiring words of Emperor Vespasian, a second assault was launched on the settlement and the Romans successfully broke through the Jewish defenses.

 

According to Josephus Flavius, this battle claimed 9,000 lives of the defenders of Gamla. Once conquered, Gamla was abandoned, and the location was forgotten over the centuries. 

 

In 1968, a geographer named Yitzhak Gal suggested that the ruins of a settlement found at the foot of the hill was ancient Gamla.

 

Intensive excavations of the area were carried out in the 1970s under the leadership of the eminent Israeli archaeologist, Shmaryahu Gutman. The results of the dig exceeded all expectations and ruins of buildings, a city wall, a magnificent synagogue from the 1st century AD were discovered. The synagogue was located right at the entrance to the city and is one of the oldest ever found in the country, built prior to the destruction of the Second Jerusalem in Temple.

 

During the excavations, many discoveries were made which testified to the fierce battle that took place at the site. Thousands of iron arrowheads, hundreds of round ballista stone throwers (a stone thrower used to break through walls) were scattered across the ruins of the settlement. A breach was also found in the wall, through which the Roman soldiers invaded.

Deir Charukh

Ruins of Deir Charukh
Ruins of Deir Charukh

At the entrance of the national park are the ruins of the settlement, Deir Charukh, which existed here in the Byzantine period (4-7 centuries AD).

 

The name comes from the Arabic language, and the word "Dir" which means monastery. Apparently, the inhabitants of the settlement lived according to monastic vows, or possibly they were Christians who observed fasts and traditions. The ruins of a small monastery and a church were found on the site and a Greek inscription in was found within the church, "God of Grigorius keep and save.  Amen."

Dolmens

Dolmen
Dolmen

The word dolmen comes from the Breton words taol maen, which means stone table. As far as we know, dolmens are burial structures used for religious and cult purposes. These structures were formed of two stone slabs, placed perpendicular to the plane. Another one was installed on top of them, parallel to the plane. When finished the structures vaguely resembled a table. 

 

Dolmens are found in different parts of the world. The Golan Heights National Park is home to the largest collection of dolmens in the country. On a plateau called Givat Bazak,700 dolmens were found in an area of 3.5 km (11.5 feet). In general, there are thousands of dolmens in the Golan Heights and many of them were deliberately covered with heaps of stones. Most of the dolmens were built at the dawn of human history during the Bronze Age from the 26th to 19th centuries BC.

Gamla waterfall

Gamla waterfall
Gamla waterfall

The Gamla stream is a tributary of the Daliyot stream. It begins from the springs to the north of Mount Pares, from there it flows through a natural shallow channel. This section ends with a waterfall that forms a canyon. Gamla waterfall is the highest in the country at 167 feet. Another small waterfall about 68 feet high is found 984 feet away.