Hamat Gader – חמת גדר, today a most popular family tourism site in Israel, combines unique recreational experiences, attractions and activities for families, groups and couples in luxurious facilities. The site opened to the public in 1977 and is jointly operated by 4 kibbutzim from Southern Golan : Mevo Hama, Kfar Haruv, Afik, and Meitzar. Based on four hot mineral water springs, the site provides modern facilities for bathing and a spa. In the site you will find three main pools of water in different temperatures, all fed from fresh natural flowing water. A fully equipped modern spa hotel is located inside the resort. In the complex there is also a Crocodile Farm, a small zoo and several kosher restaurants that are open to visitors.
Hamat Gader is located on the South Eastern part of the Sea of Galilee, at a short distance from Tiberias and its surrounding area.
Watch out! Hamat Gader has the biggest crocodile farm in Israel. They are pretty friendly, after they had lunch…
From the Tel Aviv area: Take Route 2 to the Caesarea interchange, onto Route 65 to the Sergel interchange. From there on Route 675 East to the Navot interchange and onto Route 71 East to the She’an interchange. Take Route 90 North to the Zemach interchange, onto Route 98 East to Hamat Gader.
The Greek City of Gadara was built on a spur overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Yarmuk River in what is now the Kingdom of Jordan. At the bottom of the hill, in the valley of the Yarmuk River, on a little peninsula in the river, stood Hamat Gader – the hot springs of Gadara. Its Arabic name is El Hama. Like other Greek cities and resorts the Hamat Gader hot springs also had a theater, in this case built from black Golan basalt rock.
Of course Gadara doesn’t exist any more, but in its place is the village of Umm Qais, Jordan. I was lucky enough to visit there with two of my children just after the Peace Treaty with Jordan. According to Christian tradition, in the first century AD Jesus drove demons out of a man into swine in the country of the Gadarenes’. (As per the Gospel According to Matthew. However according to Mark and Luke read ‘country of the Gerasenes’.) Not far away from Umm Qais are the beautiful columns of ancient Jerash, the Gerasa, also in Jordan.
In the Roman period the hot mineral springs were renowned for their therapeutic qualities and the second-largest bath complex in the entire Roman Empire was built at Hamat Gader. The Thermomineral Water at Hamat Gader, in Southern Golan Heights, has two important properties: heat and mineral-rich water content.
The water from the springs gushes 500-700 cubic meters per hour, at a steady temperature of 42ºC. Among the visitors to the baths in ancient times were famous rabbinical figures and prominent Greek philosophers and tutors like Meleager and Philodemus.
A synagogue with a beautiful mosaic floor was erected during the Roman Period near the magnificent baths (but the most beautiful Mosaic was reconstructed in the High court in Jerusalem). Unfortunately the mound where the synagogue was found has not been developed and is not even posted in the park.
Gadara and its hot springs were part of the “region of the Decapolis” – an area of Greek cities that Jesus knew well. Here, in the Land of the Gadarenes, and in the region of the Decapolis, Jesus and his disciples traveled many times – healing and teaching. The Decapolis (“Ten Cities”) was a league of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire; two in Israel (Scythopolis or Beth-Shean and Hippus or Sussita ), two in Syria Damascus and Canatha (Qanawat) and six in Jordan: Gerasa (Jerash), Gadara (Umm Qais), Pella, Philadelphia or modern day Amman, Capitolias (Beit Ras), and Raphana. They were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status, with each possessing a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule.
During the Syrian occupation of Hamat Gader from 1951 to 1967 there was a Syrian village called Moukhaiba and Hamat Gader was call the Moukhaiba Srings. The site of the Mosque that was renovated lately and you get a feeling of the Ottoman and later Syrian rule of the region.
Up above the springs one can still see the old Customs House at Moukhaiba from the period of the British and French mandates.
The Jordanians have built a 900 meter long diversion tunnel west of Hamat Gader to divert the waters of the Yarmukh River and and the Al-Mukhaibeh wells. The main water source for the King Abdullah Canal (KAC) along the Jordan River.
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