Hamat Gader (Hebrew: ; Aramaic: ? ?, hammata degader; Ancient Greek: , Emmatha or , Amatha;Arabic: ? al-hamma al-souriya, meaning "the Syrian hamma") is a hot springs site in the Yarmouk River valley, used since the classical antiquity. It is located in an area under Israeli control, in what was a demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria from 1949 to 1967. The site is next to the Jordanian border, and about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the tripoint of Israel, Jordan and Syria. It is set on several mineral springs with temperatures up to 50 °C.
The ancient Hebrew name means hot springs of (the ancient city of) Gadara. The latter is above the springs, in modern Umm Qais. The Arabic name El-Hamma preserves this, and the name of the tel located near the site, Tel Bani, is a corruption of the Latin word meaning "baths".
Hamat Gader was already a widely known health and recreation site in Roman times. It is mentioned in Strabo,Origen and Eunapius, as well as the Rabbinic literature of the first centuries CE.[vague]
Construction of the bath complex began in the 2nd century by the 10th Roman Legion, which was garrisoned in the city of Gadara. Two distinct construction periods are evident at the site: The Roman-Byzantine Period, during which most of the bath complex was built, and the Muslim period, during which major changes were made to the existing structures.
The site includes a Roman theatre, which was built in the 3rd century CE and contained 2,000 seats. A large synagogue was built in the 5th century CE. The empress Aelia Eudocia composed a poem praising the qualities of the multiple springs which was inscribed so that visitors could see it as they went into the pool.
Some of the buildings were damaged by an earthquake and restored in 633 by the Umayyad caliph who ruled from Damascus. A century later the 749 Galilee earthquake hit. Eventually, in the 9th century, the baths were abandoned and a thick layer of silt covered the ruins.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, according to the armistice agreements of 1949 Between Israel and Syria, it was determined that the area would be included in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between Israel and Syria. The villagers and their property were formally protected by Article V of the Israeli-Syrian agreement of 20 July that year. However, Israel thought the Arab villagers could pose a security threat, and Israeli settlers and settlement agencies coveted the land. Israel therefore wanted the Palestinian inhabitants, a total of 2,200 people, moved to Syria.
On April 4, 1951, a force of Israeli soldiers and Border Police set out for Hamat Gader in order to assert Israeli sovereignty over the site. Since Israel was not allowed to have soldiers in the DMZ, members of the patrol were disguised as policemen.Syrian soldiers guarding the entrance to Hamat Gader ordered them to turn back immediately, but the Israeli force refused. Once the Israeli force had passed, the Syrians opened fire. Of the 22 soldiers and policemen in the force, seven were killed, three were wounded and one was taken prisoner. The skirmish became known as the Al-Hamma Incident.
Israeli control over Hamat Gader was secured during the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Israeli army occupied the surrounding Golan Heights, allowing free access to Hamat Gader for Israelis. Since then, it has been under Israeli control and has been developed as a tourist attraction, health resort and an alligator and exotic bird reserve. The health resort opened in 1977.
Hamat Gader is Israel's largest and oldest spa complex. The crocodile farm complex includes thermal baths. The water contains sulfur at a concentration of 4.7%, which may have a therapeutic effect on skin diseases, asthma, rheumatism and wrist pain, as well as renew skin cells.