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 makes it unlikely that other nationalities lived in the region. 


Joseph, the son of Mataffia (Yosef ben Matatiyahu in Hebrew), was a Jewish military commander and renowned historian. Josephus Flavius was his Latin name and he was one of the leaders of the anti-Roman rebels in Galilee. Throughout his lifetime (37-100 AD), he chronicled the history of the Jewish people from the time of Creation through the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66-72 AD. 

The wall of Gamla visible
The wall of Gamla visible

Among his writings, 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."

Gamla is an Aramaic word (translated camel), perhaps inspired by the mount’s summit which resembles a hump. 


The defensive fortification of the settlement was overseen by Josephus Flavius. He ordered the building of a wall 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) was the great-grandson of Herod the Great and the last king of Judea. He openly supported Rome and marched with his army against the Jewish anti-Roman rebels. In the Acts of the Apostles, the King is described as a person who knows Jewish customs, which inspired the Apostle Paul to have hope for a just decision when he stood on trial before him,

"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 in defeat.


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. Emperor 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, the settlement was abandoned, and the location was forgotten for 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.


Israeli archaeologist, Shmaryahu Gutman, excavated the region in the 1970’s and the discoveries exceeded all expectations. Ruins of buildings, a city wall and a magnificent synagogue from the 1st century AD were uncovered. The synagogue sat 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 excavation, other discoveries were found which testified to the fierce battle at the site. Thousands of iron arrowheads and round ballista stone throwers (used to break through walls) were scattered across the ruins of the settlement. In the wall, a breach was found were Roman soldiers invaded the city. 

Deir Charukh

Ruins of Deir Charukh
Ruins of Deir Charukh








The ruins of the settlement, Deir Charukh, dating from the Byzantine period (4-7 centuries AD) are found at the entrance to the National Park. In Arabic, Dir is translated monastery.



The inhabitants of the settlement possibly lived according to monastic vows or perhaps Christians who observed fasts and traditions. The ruins of a church and a small monastery were found on the site.  Inside the church, a Greek inscription was found, "God of Grigorius keep and save.  Amen."



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 three stone slabs, 2 placed perpendicular to the plane with the third placed on top, 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  in the country. On a plateau called Givat Bazak,700 dolmens were found in an area of 3.5 km (11.5 feet).


There are thousands of dolmens in the Golan Heights but many have been deliberately covered with heaps of stones. Most  were built at the dawn of human history during the Bronze Age (26th to 19th centuries BC).

Gamla waterfall

Gamla waterfall
Gamla waterfall

The Gamla stream is a tributary of the Daliyot stream which originates in the springs to the north of Mount Pares. It flows through a natural shallow channel which ends in a waterfall, forming a canyon. The  Gamla waterfall is the highest in the country at 167 feet. Another small waterfall about 68 feet high is found 984 feet away.

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Dr Yoon (Sunday, 28 August 2022 23:17)

    Shalom Mark!
    Well documented and explained!
    We were there in 2019!