Gamla Synagogue

Ruins of the Gamla Synagogue, late first century C.E. Gamla, Golan Heights, Israel. Photo by Chad Spigel.

The Gamla synagogue is one of only two or three late first-century C.E. synagogues known to exist. Before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E., synagogues operated more like community centers than houses of worship. Gamla, an ancient Jewish city in the Golan Heights, is situated on a precipitous hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The Roman army besieged the city during the First Jewish Revolt (66–73 C.E.). Inside the city’s protective walls are the ruins of its synagogue, shown here. The tiered benches lining the outer walls of the synagogue made the structure conducive to public gatherings. A Doric colonnade once surrounded the main hall. Archaeological evidence suggests that the synagogue was converted to accommodate refugees during the Roman siege.

Looking northeast into the first-century synagogue in Gamla. Notice the tiered benches on each of the walls.

The revolt of the Jews against the Roman Empire between 66 and 73 C.E., the result of which was the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple.

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