On the way to the north of Israel stands the beautiful medieval Belvoir fortress with astonishing views from the top and fascinating history
Belvoir Fortress National Park
Belvoir Fortress National Park is known in Hebrew as Kochav Hayarden, meaning “Star of the Jordan” is a massive and amazing Crusaders Castle. It located on a hill on the Nephtali plateau, 20 Km south of the Sea of Galilee overlooking the Jordan Valley. These are the ruins of a crusaders castle dating to the 12th century.
At 500 meters high it commanded the route from Gilead to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the river crossing of the Jordan.
How to get to Belvoir castle
Kochav Hayarden is located north of Beit Shean off route 90, about 20 km south of the Sea of Galilee. Turn west on route 717 and follow the signs for about 15 Km. Don’t despair if you think you lost your way. Keep going and follow the signs. It is worth the visit.
The park is open between 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in summer and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in winter.
The views from Belvoir are fabulous with a view south over the Jordan Valley, north to the Sea of Galilee and west towards the valleys of the Galilee.
Belvoir Fortress History
It is one of Israel’s best-kept secrets, for adults as well as for children that will play among the ruins.
Brief History of Belvoir Fortress, it was a Jewish village Called Kohav(Star in Hebrew) 2000 years ago, You still can see Jewish symbols in secondary use in the walls of the fortress)
The Knights Hospitaller started its construction in 1168 of several castles of which Belvoir was the most important. At that time it became a great obstacle to the Muslim goal of destroying the Crusaders Kingdom.
The battle of Belvoir Castle of 1182 was fought between King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Salah A Din is known to us as “Saladin”
Finally, Belvoir was besieged and only after more than a year of siege, the defenders surrendered. It was governed from Damascus until it was ceded to the Franks who controlled it until 1263.
It was an Arab village Kawkab al-Hawa, whose inhabitants fled during the 1948 war.
The architecture of the castle
Belvoir consisted of an outer fortress in the form of a square, and a smaller inner square fortress. Its walls were built with ashlar stones. They had big cisterns to hold the rainwater for times of siege.
They also built a moat 14 meters deep and 20 meters wide on three sides to protect the fortress from aggressors coming near.
The four corners had huge towers besides more towers at the midpoint. They were protected against tunneling through the moat.
In the courtyard between the walls of the outer fortress and the inner fortress were large halls covered stables, storehouses and living space and gave access to defensive positions on the roofs.
The Inner Fortress is a 50 by 50-meter square structure, two stories high and also surrounded by a wall with towers at the corners.
The upper story served as the command headquarters of the fortress and included the apartments of the knights, as well as a small chapel built of limestone and roofed with cross vaults.
Belvoir castle today
After centuries of abandonment, new excavations started in 1966 and then opened to the public as a National Park. Today it’s the best example of a Crusaders fortress in Israel.
Aside from the remains of the castle, the site has a stunning view and a nice sculpture garden portraying the works of Israeli artist Yigal Tumarkin.
For more information visit Israel Government Tourism Website