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El Araj Season 4: The Weekend


Looking west from the cliffs one sees across the Arbel Pass to Mount Nitai in the foreground. If you have a very good eye, beneath the patch of green you will see the line of a wall. This was a defensive wall built by Josephus Flavius in the first century CE.

Fridays and Saturdays we do not dig. These days are for rest and the opportunity to travel as a group to beautiful sites in the region. On Friday we traveled to the upper Golan to two sites: Gamla and Umm el-Kanatir. Gamla is named for the "camel-shaped" precipice on which the city was built. It was made famous by the story told by Josephus Flavius about its heroic stand against the Romans. After a brief historical explanation by Motti Aviam, we hiked down. Although the landscape is dry in the midsummer (our trek was in fact on the summer solstice June 21) there is still beauty to be found in the surrounding flora and the distant Gamla waterfall. The focus of our visit was the archaeological remains, which include olive oil presses, mikvaot (ritual immersion baths), and the remains of the houses destroyed in the Jewish Revolt in October of 67 CE. After the destruction of Gamla by the Roman general Vespasian the site was never rebuilt. We visited the synagogue of the city, the largest yet uncovered from the Second Temple Period. After a climb back up the hill, we were off to Umm el-Kanatir ("mother of the arches") named in Arabic after the arches over the spring of this ancient village. Prominent on the site is the reconstructed synagogue that was destroyed in the massive earthquake of 749 CE, which also destroyed other cities along the Rift Valley, Beit Shean, Tiberias, Hippos-Sussita, etc. On Saturday 18 brave souls rose at 5:00AM for our climb of nearby Mount Arbel. The cliffs of Arbel rise 1200 feet over Migdal (where we reside) and is a constant point of reference during our stay. The predawn climb is not for the faint of heart. Not only is the ascent "breathtaking" but one must climb sheer walls. Once again, if you take the opportunity to look, you will witness the beauty of the surrounding flora and the vestiges of the history of this land. Shabbat shalom.


Gamla. The story of Gamla told by Josephus Flavius greets you along the path down.

Motti Aviam tells the history of the fall of Gamla (in the shade).

Thistles color the otherwise brown landscape.

Our trek to Gamla.

Gamla waterfall.

Miqveh (ritual immersion bath) at Gamla.

The springs of Umm el-Kanatir.

Into the side door of the synagogue of Umm el-Kanatir.

The front of the synagogue of Umm el-Kanatir.

Sunburst over Mount Arbel with the Plain of Gennesaret and the Sea of Galilee in the distance.

Scaling the cliffs of Mount Arbel.

Blooms on the caper bush.

Flora color covers the mountainside.

Created by: The Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism & Christian Origins 

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