Nimrod Fortress National Park, located on a ridge in the northern Golan, contains the largest castle remaining in Israel from the Middle Ages.
It is named after a biblical hero, the hunter Nimrod who, according to local legend, dwelt on this summit.
The fortress overlooks the deep, narrow valley separating Mount Hermon from the Golan Heights and the road linking the Galilee with Damascus.
The fortress was founded in the Middle Ages, probably by the Crusaders, to defend the city of Banias in the valley below against Muslim incursions.
Later, the Muslim rulers of Damascus rebuilt it to defend their border against the Crusaders.
During the 12th-13th centuries, it changed hands several times, but it was maintained and strengthened mainly by the Muslims, as attested to by the numerous Arabic inscriptions found incorporated into the building.
The fortifications follow the contours of the long, narrow ridge and are visible to this day.
At first a small fortress was built on the eastern, higher part of the slope, and subsequently the castle was expanded and built also on the western part.
The castle was separated from the main fortress by a moat, access being provided by a drawbridge.
Later, Nimrod Castle was renovated and expanded and at some point towers were also added.
The gate-tower, according to an inscription inside it, was built by the Ayyubid ruler al-Aziz Othman in 1230.
Fragments of an Arabic inscription which indicate that the Mamluk sultan Baibars restored the gate-tower in 1275.
A secret passage led from the gate tower to the outside which would have enabled the defenders of the fortress to launch a surprise attack on besiegers, or if necessary, to flee from it.
This new gate house was constructed of particularly large, well-trimmed stones weighing several tons each.
At the end of the 13th century, the Muslim conquest of the port city of Acre on the Mediterranean signified the end of Crusader rule in the Holy Land.
After the expulsion of the Crusaders, Nimrod fortress lost its strategic value and construction on it ceased.
The Ottoman rulers used the fortress as a prison and in the course of the 16th century.
Then it was completely abandoned and the structure and fell into disrepair.
It became a shelter for shepherds in the region, but that it’s it.
In October 1759 there was an earthquake that affected the entire area cities like of Safed and Tiberius were severely damaged.
Despite the force of the earthquake, the majority of the castle’s towers did not suffer any serious damage.
In the 1920s, the French army used Nimrod Castle while suppressing the Arab and the Druze revolts.
In this period the French broke a hole in the western wall to placed at the Castle a battery of cannons, which today serves as the entrance to the castle.
Later, during the 6-day War, the castle was used by the Syrians as an artillery observation point, which led to damage facade of the castle by the IDF’s air force.
After that the castle was rehabilitated, renovated, and studied.
Today, visitors can visit the well preserved Nimrod Fortress with some 13 place of interest marked with descriptive signs.
Visit Nimrod Fortress
You can only access Nimrod Fortress National Park by car from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv (or anywhere).
See the Nimrod Fortress National Park webpage for more information, such as visiting hours and entrance fees.