Gamla was an ancient Jewish city whose remains you can still see today. Among the ruins, is a first century synagogue, making it one of the oldest synagogues in the world, and next to it a public ritual bath.
The nature reserve is situated on a rugged slope in the central Golan Heights, east of the Sea of Galilee. As well as being an important historical site, it has the largest colony of Griffon vultures in the country.
Douglas E. Ducket is an American tourist who has written his own travel guide. I loved the review of his visit to this spectacular site so, with his permission, here it is ...
Gamla is often called “the Masada of the north.” The historian Josephus tells us that in the Great Revolt of 66-70 CE, Roman armies laid siege to this city, which sat so high on its crested ridge that “it almost seemed to hang in the air.” (The name comes from the Hebrew word for camel (gamal), because the distinctive hump, seen above, looked like a camel’s back.) The population at that time was swollen by Jewish refugees fleeing the Roman onslaught, and when the Roman forces broke through the defensive wall, some 9,000 Jews either jumped to their deaths from the far end of the ridge or were thrown into the ravines.
The ruins are spectacularly preserved – you can even see where the Romans broke through. The hike down to the ruins and back up is very rigorous; you may be able to catch a ride on a tram. In my early 50s, I’m getting a bit old for it myself.
The region is also a spectacular nature reserve, with a 51-meter waterfall and one of the best protected habitats of the Griffon vulture, with a wing-span of up to 2.7 meters! These spectacular birds soar soundlessly on the thermal drafts along the ravines on each side of Gamla – in 2006, I hit the dirt when one swooped just a meter or two over my head! They are among the most beautiful examples of birds in flight I have ever seen.
Excerpt from guide booklet Israel: A Personal Travel Guide by Douglas E. Duckett. Copyright - all rights reserved.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. Want to read more? Look for the FREE download on my Other Resources page.
Other cool places to visit in the Golan Heights:
Nimrod Fortress - Medieval fortress with amazing panoramic views!
Sa'ar Falls - Nature trail with beautiful waterfall in winter and spring.
Banias (Hermon Stream) - Nature trails by the Hermon Stream and archeological site.