Belvoir-Crusader Fortress in the Sky
Belvoir Castle was a Crusader Fortress built to protect the road to Tiberias and as a lookout point over the Jordan Valley. Most people pass it without even realizing it is there. However, if you’re looking something a bit off the beaten track, it is well worth a visit.
The fortress is inside the Kokav HaYarden National Park. There is a trail which can be taken where one can see a sculpture park, interesting flora and fauna and go to a lookout point. The centerpiece of the park however, is the fortress archeological site. The park and the fortress are located some 20-km. south of the Sea of Galilee and about 500 meters above the Jordan Valley. It overlooks the winding Jordan River below and faces the hills of Gilead in today's Kingdom of Jordan.
The name Belvoir means Fairview in French. The Crusaders gave their fortress this name for a good reason - the views are amazing! From here one can look south over the Jordan Valley, north to the Kinneret and Golan Heights and west over the Galilee region.
In Hebrew it is called Kokav HaYarden which means Star of the Jordan. This name preserves the name of the original Jewish village which was situated here during the Roman period. The name of the village was called Kokav and it overlooked the Jordan River.
The Arabic name is Kaukab el-Hawa which means Star of the Wind since it gets quite windy up here. So hold onto your hats!
In 1168, this area was sold by a French nobleman to the Order of the Hospitallers who wanted the site because it guarded the route to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the nearby river crossing. The Crusaders were guarding against the Muslims who were trying to invade the kingdom from the east. The fortress was built as soon as the site was purchased.
In 1180 the fortress was attacked but held out. Again, during the campaign of 1182, the Battle of Belvoir Castle was fo
ught nearby between King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Saladin. Following Saladin's victory over the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hittin, Belvoir was besieged. The siege lasted an entire year and a half, until the defenders surrendered. Saladin let the defenders live if they would leave the area which they did, going to Tyre in Lebanon.
Excavations and reconstruction work was carried out between 1966-1968, on behalf of the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority. It’s a great place to explore. The castle is a fortress within a fortress within a fortress. It has a moat, courtyards, towers, gates, vaults, cisterns…. Oh, and did I mention the views?