Shortly after the 1967 Six Day War, archeological surveys (relatively quick checks of the surface area to identify any potential archeological sites) were ordered. Taking a short rest in the southern Golan Heights, surveyor Itzhaki Gal stared at a mountain below him and was in shock. Having grown up on the works of ancient Roman/Jewish historian Josephus, he recalled the words, “Gamla…was situated upon a rough ridge of a high mountain, with a kind of neck in the middle: where it begins to ascend, it lengthens itself, and declines as much downward before as behind, insomuch that it is like a camel in figure, from whence it is so named…” (War of the Jews, 4:1:1). Gal immediately recognized the long-lost site for what it was and the excavations soon began.

When the Romans began their onslaught in 67 CE, thousands of refugees flocked to Gamla, doubling its numbers to almost nine thousand Jews. The Romans sent their best legions and surrounded the area. The first Roman assault failed. The second Roman assault broke through, but their soldiers were repulsed in fierce hand-to-hand combat. A few days later, however, the third assault succeeded. Thousands of residents and refugees fell to their deaths trying to escape — or committed suicide — rather than be tortured by the Romans.

Today, Gamla is a marvel. The camel shape is easy to recognize. The tragic “breaching point” is clear. The base of one of the oldest synagogues in the world (built in the first century BCE and destroyed in 67 CE, three years before the destruction of the Second Temple) remains standing, with a mikvah (ritual bath) at its entrance. The residents of Gamla minted their own coins during the revolt and inscribed them with the words “For the redemption of Jerusalem the H(oly).” The residents of Gamla knew what they were fighting for.