Gamla I

Evidence Found at Gamala

"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:"ŚMatthew 5:1

The numerous mentions of mountains and their proximity to the Sea of Galilee, in the gospels, should raise a red flag as Nazareth is more than twenty miles from the Sea and situated on a flat plateau and Capernaum is at sea level, but with no mountains. However, the Sea is actually visible from Gamala or Gamla which is seven miles northeast of the east bank, and unlike Nazareth actually existed during the time of Christ and had its own Temple, but this city, which was excavated during the 1970s and 80s, was the home of Judas of Galilee, and would too closely tie the Jesus of Christianity with the Jewish rebels. It is also the main region inhabited by the original Nazorean sect.

"Herod, upon his return to Syria, finding himself unable to reach the robbers themselves, invaded Trachon and slew many of their relations there, in retaliation for which they still more harassed and pillaged his territory ("Antiquities" xvi. 91). In the end, Herod threw 2000 Idumzeans into Trachonitis (i6. 2), and placed a Babylonian Jew named Zamaris, a leader of mercenaries, in command of the surrounding districts. Zamaris built fortresses, and a village called Bathyra, and protected the Jews coming up from Babylon to attend the feasts in Jerusalem against the Trachonite robbers. The consequence was that, till the end of Herod's reign, the country around Trachonitis enjoyed tranquillity"--Josephus, "Antiquities" xvii. 2 1-2.

Bathyra was the academy built on the deserted estate of John Hyrcanus. Herod promised five hundred Babylonians tax-free status forever if they built a military academy there to protect his border. On their own they established a religious academy with such teachers as Hillel (110 BCE-10CE) and his grandson Gamaliel I. From topographic descriptions of the camel humps used to identify both Bathyra and Gamala, one can conclude that they are synonymous.

The city of Gamala on the Golan derived its name from gamal (Hebrew for camel), since it was situated on a hill shaped like a camels rump. The Hasmonean ruler Alexander Yannaeus founded the city in the first century BCE and it continued to be inhabited by Jews, as attested to by Josephus Flavius (Antiquities of the Jews 13:394). Josephus, a Jew, was Commander of Galilee during the Jewish Revolt against Rome and in 66 CE fortified Gamala as his main stronghold on the Golan. He gives a very detailed topographical description of the city and describes the Roman siege under the command of Vespasian which led to its conquest in 67 CE. The Romans attempted to take the city by means of a siege ramp, but were turned back by the defenders; only on the second attempt did they succeed in penetrating the fortifications and conquering the city. Thousands of inhabitants were slaughtered, while others chose to jump to their deaths from the top of the cliff (Josephus, The Jewish War IV, 1-83). Gamala has not been rebuilt since.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Continued / Table of Contents