Sunday 8 November 2009

Gamla - Galilee's 'Masada'

The first Jewish revolt against the Romans, in 66 CE, was ruthlessly put down.  In the Galilee and Golan, the Roman commander was himself a Jew who had changed allegiance.  He was born Yosef ben Mattityahu haCohen and was the supreme military commander of the Jewish Revolutionary Government forces in the Galilee.  After a quarrel with hard line zealots (who accused him of trying to negociate with the Romans), he changed sides following the capture of Yodefat and Romanised his name.  We know him as Flavius Josephus!

Gamla was one of the best fortified towns in the region, being naturally secure on a rocky ridge shaped like a camel's hump (the Hebrew for camel is gamal ) and it held out against the beseiging army for seven months, only being captured when the Romans called for reinforcements.  The story is that some 4000 fighters were killed and another 5000 threw themselves off the rocks to avoid being captured by the Romans.  Whether the figures are accurate or not, it was certainly a tragedy for the fledgling independent state.

For many years historians mislocated the site, but in 1968, following the capture of the Golan in the Six Day War, they discovered and excavated the site , finding walls, a synagogue, aqueduct and rows of terraced houses, almost exactly as described by Josephus  From the carpark you can walk in one direction to the Gamla site and in another, past prehistoric burial stone dolmens, probably erected over 5000 years ago, to the beautiful Gamla waterfall, at 50 metres, the highest in Israel!


You can reach Gamla off Route 808, which you can access either south from Route 87 or north from Route 869 at the North East corner of Lake Kinneret.
Click here for a Googlemap of this location

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