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April 06, 1984 - Image 88

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-04-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

88

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, April 6, 1984

Ancient Gamla uncovered

BY HAIM SHAPIRO
Holyland Features

THE JEWISH NEWS

Golan Heights — It is the
site of one of the great
battles of ancient times,
with less than 10,000
Jewish men, women and
children holding out
against 60,000 crack troops
of the occupying Roman
Legion in the First Century
CE, but until just about a
dozen years ago no one even
knew where the battle had
occurred.
The place is Gamla, in Is-
rael's north. Gamla in He-
brew means camel, and the
ruins are located on a ridge
that resembles a camel's
hump when seen from
above. Nevertheless, few
believed archeologist
Shmarya Gutman when he
first identified the site.
But after he uncovered
the ramp built by the
Roman army, found a
synagogue and ritual bath,
and discovered hundreds of
rounded catapult stones,
the other scholars began to
take the claim seriously.
The excavations, which
began in 1970, are continu-
ing.
The story of Gamla is told
by Josephus Flavius, a
Jewish general who was
taken prisoner by the Ro-
mans and later went over to
the Roman side. In his
well-known "history,"
Josephus describes Gamla
as the last Jewish stron-
ghold in the north to hold
out against the Roman
forces, which occupied the
Holy Land from 63 B.C.E.
to the Fourth Century C.E.

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Gamla's story is remark-
ably similar to that of
Masada, on the Dead Sea,
whose inhabitants' heroic
struggle against the Ro-
mans is far more famous. In
fact, Gamla fell four years
before Masada and while
only 960 defenders took
their own lives at Masada
rather than surrender to the
Romans, over 5,000 corn-
mitted suicide at Gamla,
with another 4,000 dying
in the fighting there.
One problem that is still
bothering the archeologists
is the complete absence of
any human bones at Gamla.
Perhaps other Jews came
later to bury the heroes.
Another difficulty was to
figure out where all the
people lived on the rela-
tively small peak. Current
excavations, however, have
shown that the houses were
terraced, with the roof of
one forming the floor of an-
other.
A visit to Gamla involves.
a long, rocky climb. Upon
arrival, one can see the
wall, with the first breach
made by the Romans, at the
town gate. One can also see
why that attack was re-

Shown are the ruins of Gamla in northern Israel.



These dolmens are located near the ruins of the ancient town
and fortress of Gamla.
pulsed. The break was a stones which the Romans
small one and the attackers used to batter the town into
must have been forced to submission. So far, over
close ranks and enter al- 1,700 have been counted.
Next to the synagogue is
most in single file.
The second breach in the the ritual bath.
Another aspect of Gamla
wall is larger and here the
Romans must have poured which has nothing to do
through in overwhelming with Jews or Romans are
the dolmens, great slabs of
numbers.
Two cisterns for water rock, each balanced on two
have been uncovered so far, other rocks and resembling
and in times of peace the objects which were found in
town also had water from England, Scandinavia and
Nahal Daliot, the stream Brittany.
The scholars believe that
that ran through one of the
ravines surrounding the they were erected in about
2,000 BCE as. tombs or
peak. According to one
view, most of the men in places for sacrifice, but
Gamla must have earned more than that they cannot
say, neither about the dol-
their livelihoods by herding
mens nor about those who
sheep, which they would
take out all week, returning erected them. Perhaps the
deepest mystery of all is
only for the Sabbath.
how they managed to put
Then, they would no
doubt gather in the the huge stones in place.
But even for those with no
synagogue, a rectangular
interest at all in history and
structure of almost monu-
pre-history, there is a lot to
mental proportions, with
find in the environs of
tiers of black basalt stone
Gamla. The nature reserve
benches. It is the oldest
that encompasses the site
synagogue to have been dis-
includes the highest year-
covered so far in Roman
round waterfall in the coun-
Palestine, and it predates
try. Bird-watchers spend
the destruction of the Sec-
hours on the nearby cliffside
ond Temple in Jerusalem by
observing the vultures and
four years. This in itself is
even an occasional eagle
important because it indi-
nesting there. And the pic-
cates that there were
nic site, located in some
synagogues in Israel even
nearby Byzantine ruins, is a
before the Temple ritual
nice spot to have lunch.
had ended.
Holyland Features
The entrance, as in other,
later synagogues in Galilee,
Foreign students
faces in the direction of
Jerusalem (ZINS) —
Jerusalem. In one corner is
More than 800 Israeli Arabs
a closet-like recess, possibly
a storage place for the holy are currently enrolled at
scrolls used in the worship various educational institu-
service. All around the syn- tions in East Europe Com-
agogue lie the catapult munist countries.

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