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Belvoir Fortress (Kokhav HaYarden)

Kokhav HaYarden National Park in the Galilee is an archeological site of the Crusader castle, Belvoir Fortress known in Hebrew as Kohav Hayarden.

The eastern edge of Ramat Kokhav appears to have been settled already in the ancient Israelite period.

In the period of the Mishna and the Talmud, there was a Jewish settlement there named Kochava, and archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of residential homes and a public building.

Some believe that this place as Grifina which was one of the series of peaks on which, according to ancient Rabbinical sources, torches or bonfires were lit to announce the new moon.

In 1168, the Knights Hospitalier, understood the strategic importance of the site and built the Belvoir fortress which can be seen there to this day.

The security of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was dependent upon a network of fortifications, mainly along its eastern border which was vulnerable to Muslim attacks.

Belvoir consisted of an outer square fortress surrounded by a moat, which enclosed a smaller, inner square fortress.

A huge, external tower surrounded by a low wall was built on the eastern side of the outer fortress.

The main entrance was via an outer gateway which continued to the inner gate of the fortress, and a secondary entrance on the west side had a draw bridge.

The moat was dry and was meant to prevent siege engines, such as battering rams and assault towers, from coming close to the fortifications.

Huge towers stood at the four corners of the fortress, with additional towers half way between them.

In the courtyard between the walls of the outer fortress and the inner fortress were large halls which served as stables, storehouses, and living space.

The inner fortress was two stories high and surrounded by a wall with towers at the corners.

This inner fortress could withstand siege even after the main, outer fortress had fallen into enemy hands.

In its center was an open courtyard surrounded by a refectory, kitchen, meeting hall, stores, living quarters, and a well-protected cisterns for the storage of rain water guaranteed the water supply in times of siege.

The upper story served as the command headquarters of the fortress and included the apartments of the the knights and a small chapel.

In the late 12th century, Saladin repeatedly attacked the Crusaders and after the battle at Karney Hittin, Saladin destroyed most of the Crusader army.

However, three fortresses remained under Crusader control – Tyre, Safed, and Kokhav HaYarden.

Saladin was determined to conquer Kokhav HaYarden and his forces besieged the fortress for a year and a half.

He managed to break through the outer fortress only to discover the inner fortress.

Both sides were exhausted and the Crusaders agreed to hand over the fortress on condition that they would be allowed to move to Tyre.

In 1193, after the death of Saladin, out of concern for a renewed Crusader campaign, Belvoir Fortress was destroyed.

The fortress of Belvoir remained in ruins until comprehensive excavations were conducted in 1966.

The fortifications, well preserved under masses of rubble, were revealed.

During excavations in the fortress, carved basalt stones were found that had been taken from an ancient synagogue, among them a stone on which a seven-branched candelabra was carved.

Today, Belvoir fortress is the most complete and impressive Crusader fortress in Israel.

There is also Hospitaller Fortress in Akko whose interior has been better preserved, which is also work seeing, and is only an hour and a half away.

Visit Belvoir Fortress

The best way to reach Kokhav HaYarden National Park is by car, especially from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv (or anywhere).

There is the Kokhav HaYarden Campgrounds that permit you to spend the night under the stars and amoung the ruins.

For more information like visiting hours and entry fees, see Kokhav HaYarden webpage.

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