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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘geography’

Postcard from Israel: Gamla

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

“From a lofty mountain there descends a rugged spur rising in the middle to a hump, the declivity from the summit of which is of the same length before as behind, so that in form the ridge resembles a camel; whence it derives its name. Its sides and face are cleft all round by inaccessible ravines, but at the tail end, where it hangs on to the mountain, it is somewhat easier of approach; but this quarter also the inhabitants, by cutting a trench across it, had rendered difficult of access. The houses were built against the steep mountain flank and astonishingly huddled together, one on top of the other, and this perpendicular site gave the city the appearance of being suspended in air and falling headlong upon itself. It faced south, and its southern eminence, rising to an immense height, formed the citadel; below this an unwalled precipice descended to the deepest of the ravines. There was a spring within the walls at the confines of the town.”

So the Second Temple era town of Gamla in the Golan Heights is described by Josephus Flavius in his book “The Jewish Wars.” For many years, however, the exact location of Gamla was unknown until, in 1976, excavations at the site revealed an ancient Synagogue, ritual baths, houses, and evidence of the fierce battle against the Romans which resulted in the town’s destruction in 67 CE.

Today, Gamla is a nature reserve and alongside the ancient Jewish town visitors can also see Neolithic dolmens and the ruins of the Byzantine Christian village of Dir Krukh which was abandoned at the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century, as well as the highest waterfall in Israel and the Griffon Vulture sanctuary and breeding grounds on the cliffs surrounding Gamla.

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Gamla from the east

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Memorial to residents of the Golan killed in Israel’s wars

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Dolmen at Gamla

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Dir Krukh

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Dir Krukh

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Vulture nesting grounds

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Synagogue Gamla

Postcard from Israel: Tel Lachish

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

As is the case with many of the other Tels in Israel, Tel Lachish shows evidence of habitation spanning many different historic periods over thousands of years. It is perhaps most well-known, however, due to the archaeological evidence of two events in which it fell to invaders.

In 701 BCE the Assyrian king Sennacherib conquered Lachish in a campaign to put down the revolt by Hezekiah, king of Judea. The story is of course told in the Torah and also recorded in the Lachish reliefswhich decorated Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh and can now be seen in the British Museum. At Tel Lachish itself, it is possible to see the Assyrian-built siege ramp and the double city wall through which the conquerors must have entered the city.

In 586 BCE the city fell again – this time to Nebuchadnezzar – as mentioned in Jeremiah:

“When the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the remaining cities of Judah, that is, Lachish and Azekah, for they alone remained as fortified cities among the cities of Judah.”  (Jermiah 34:7)

The Lachish Letters, some of which can also be found in the British Museum, were written to Ya’osh, the military governor of Lachish, by Hosha’yahu – an officer in charge of a nearby outpost – during the invasion by the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar and the room in which the letters were found can also be seen today at the Tel, together with the Israelite palace, the gateway and the 120 foot deep well which provided the city with water during the First Temple period.

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