ḤAMMAT GADER (Heb. חַמַּת גָּדֵר; Emmatha, El Hamme ), ancient site on the right bank of the Yarmuk Valley, north of *Gadara (Umm Qeis) and to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It was a Jewish town in the Roman and Byzantine periods. Ḥammat contained several hot springs and these attracted settlers from earliest times. In talmudic times it was included in the territory of *Gadara, and the Talmud thus refers to it as "Ḥammat of Gadara." It was heavily populated in this period, and many visitors from the south, the Golan, and Galilee, including Judah ha-Nasi and his pupils, came to bathe in the springs. The Romans also used the springs during the bathing season. The ruins include a temple, a theater, a synagogue, and a large complex of baths.
[E. Cindof /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
In the Modern Period
The five thermal springs of Ḥammat Gader (the waters of the hottest and richest in minerals have a temperature of 124° F (51° C)) intermittently served local inhabitants for healing purposes. The place became a station on the narrow-gauge railway branch that connected Haifa through Ẓemaḥ with the Hejaz railway (traffic on the line was finally halted in 1946 when the Palmaḥ blew up a bridge crossing the Yarmuk near Ḥammat Gader). The border of the British Mandate of Palestine protruded eastward into the narrow Yarmuk gorge for 3 mi. (5 km.), thus creating a wedge, including Ḥammat Gader, of a few hundred meters width only, between Transjordanian and Syrian territory. In Israel's War of Independence (1948), the Syrians occupied the place when advancing toward Lake Kinneret; in the 1949 Armistice Agreement, the Ḥammat Gader tongue returned to Israel sovereignty, although it was declared a demilitarized zone where only the previous (i.e., Arab) inhabitants were permitted to return. Nevertheless in 1951, Syrian forces occupied Ḥammat Gader and held it until 1967. The Syrians turned the spot into a rest center for their officers and officials, building a mosque, hotel, bathhouses, and other installations. In the Six-Day War (1967), Ḥammat Gader returned to Israeli control. In the ensuing years, it was repeatedly shelled from Jordanian positions on the steep slope directly above it, and mines planted by terrorists caused a number of losses to Israel civilians. Because of the security situation, plans for developing Ḥammat Gader as a farming, tourist, and recreation center had to be postponed, and the group preparing to settle there had to erect its collective village, Mevo Ḥammat, 3 mi. (5 km.) to the northwest on the Golan plateau. Subsequently, however, it was developed into one of Israel's leading tourist sites with water sports, a crocodile farm, and other attractions in addition to the baths.
Albright, in: basor, 35 (1932), 12; Glueck, ibid., 49 (1933), 22; E.L. Sukenik, The Ancient Synagogue of el-Ḥammeh "Ḥammath-by-Gadara" (1935); idem, in: jpos, 15 (1935), 101–80. add. bibliography: Y. Hirschfeld, "The History and Town-Plan of Ancient Hammat Gader," in: zdpv 103 (1987), 101–16; Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 91–93; Y. Hirschfeld, The Roman Baths of Hammat Gader (1997).