Gamla is an ancient settlement located in the mid-Golan Heights. It appears that the site was first settled during the Chacolithic Period (4500-3300 BCE), at a time when settlement activity flourished on the Golan Heights. During the Early Bronze Era (3300-2200 BCE), archaeological findings indicate that there was an important settlement on the site. It appears that the site was abandoned for about 2,300 years, until the mid-second century BCE, the Hellenistic Period (332-63 BCE). The Hellenistic settlement was established and called Gamla due to the unique formation of the mountain on which the settlement is located, which seems to recall the hump of a camel (Gamal in Hebrew). The settlement quickly became the capital of the central Golan, which was then called Gaulanitis.
The city of Gamla was well known for its role during the Great Revolt against the Romans (66-70 CE) when it served as the important fortress city in the Golan. Only with great effort and after the defenders of the city had succeeded in driving the Romans off time after time, were the Romans able to penetrate the heavy fortifications and capture the besieged city. The Roman soldiers slaughtered thousands of the city’s residents and those who tried to flee from the troops were forced to jump to their deaths from the cliff, as there was nowhere for them to continue. In all, about 9,000 people were killed both from the city and from the neighboring villages, people who had sought shelter in the fortified city.
Today, ancient Gamla is located in the Gamla Nature Reserves. The hike to the remains of the city involves a descent from the impressive lookout point to the site, and a walk around it of about a kilometer. The visit takes approximately two hours. From among the fascinating findings discovered in the excavation were the remains of a city wall from the period of the revolt, the splendid synagogue, the first to be built in Israel, while the Second Temple in Jerusalem still existed, a few houses of the city, and scattered throughout, hundreds of large sling stones which were hurled into the city by the Roman catapults, and thousands of arrowheads and nails from the Roman army siege-engines.
In addition to the remains of the city, there is a walking path of about a kilometer and a half, there and back, to an overlook of the eagle population which build their nests in the precipices of the reserve. The path passes through a field of dolmens, structures built of large basalt stones, in the shape of a trapezoid. These date from the Bronze Age, which were used for burial. In the graves, a small amount of pottery and metal objects have been found which were placed as offerings alongside the dead. Another short walk leads to the Gamla River, and its observation point provides a look at the Gamla waterfall, 51 meters high and considered the highest falls in Israel.