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Gamla, where Jewish residents battled Roman legionnaires in A.D. 67, is a dramatic historical as well as nature site, 12km (7 miles) southeast near Zomet Daliyot. Gamla was one of the early Jewish strongholds recaptured by Rome during the First Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70). At the end of this war, Jerusalem and the Second Temple were destroyed (A.D. 70), and the Zealots of Masada committed mass suicide rather than fall into Roman hands (A.D. 73). The story of the battle at Gamla is chillingly similar to that of Masada, but the number of dead was many times higher.

The well-fortified town of Gamla was first conquered by Jewish forces under Alexander Yannai in 90 B.C. Its name came from the shape of the site: a hill that looks like the hump of a camel (gamal). Shortly after the revolt against Rome broke out in A.D. 66, Gamla filled with Jewish refugees fleeing Roman control. The inhabitants at first held out against a Roman siege army, but in the end (according to the Roman Jewish historian, Josephus), when the Romans breached Gamla's defenses, 9,000 people flung themselves from the cliff -- choosing death before subjugation. If this indeed happened, the resistance to the death at Gamla in A.D. 67 was different in strategy and spirit from the mass suicide at Masada 6 years later, when all hope of Jewish victory had long been lost. In Gamla, at the start of the revolt against Rome, the Jews wanted to demonstrate that they would pay any price to stop Rome from regaining control of the Galilee and Judea. There was hope that their sacrifice would result in victory, or at least a compromise with Rome.

There is a shorter trail to the ruins as well as a longer nature hike. Both routes are marked; the longer hike from the road to the site of Gamla, though an arduous 1 to 1 1/2 hours, is especially beautiful amid the waterfalls and wildflowers of late winter and the spring. Bring drinking water in warm weather. The ruined, dramatically located synagogue, marked by the tiered stone benches around its periphery, is one of the very few synagogues that can be dated from the time of the Second Temple and is especially memorable, overlooking the forested valley and countryside. Tip: Early mornings and late afternoons, the majestic Griffon vultures of the area can be seen wafting in the skies over this hauntingly beautiful site. Note: On weekdays, Gamla National Park may be closed due to army maneuvers in the area. Always call to confirm hours.