Days Out in the Galilee & Golan

Belvoir or Kochav HaYarden

Belvoir or Kochav HaYarden (Star of the Jordan) is a massive and very impressive Crusader castle perched high on a plateau above the Jordan Valley, hence its name. Its location provided strategic control of the area and a stunning view to match. Construction of the fortress began in 1168. It is considered the best-preserved Crusader fortress in Israel.

As typical with ancient buildings, the structure was made with basalt and limestone. The north, south, and west sides of the fortress are surrounded by a moat, while the eastern side is protected by a barbican (outer wall that serves as defense).

This is a real castle, well preserved, with thick walls and lots of places to explore. A children’s paradise with lots of interest for adults.

The road up makes you think that you have gone the wrong way, but it is worth persevering to the top.

History of Belvoir Castle

Belvoir Fortress was part of the feudal estate of a French nobleman named Velos who lived in Tiberias. In 1168, Velos sold it to the Order of the Hospitallers (also known as Knights Hospitallers) and the castle was built on the site. The fortress of Belvoir served as a major obstacle to the Muslim advance on the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. It withstood the attack of the Muslim forces in 1180. During the campaign of 1182, a fierce battle was fought nearby between King Baldwin IV and Saladin (the founder of Ayyubid dynasty).

Following Saladin’s victory over the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hittin, Belvoir was besieged. The siege lasted a year and a half, until the defenders surrendered on 5 January 1189. An Arab governor took up residence at the castle until 1219 when an Ayyubid leader in Damascus had slighted. The Franks seized the fortification and controlled it until 1263.

The fortress became an Arab village during the Ottoman period. The Arabs named it “Kawkab al-Hawa,” (Star of the Wind) and lived there until they were forced out by the Zionist forces during the 1947-1948 Civil War. Israeli authorities demolished the Arab buildings on the site from 1963 to 1968.

In and around Belvoir Castle

The views from Belvoir are phenomenal with a 270 degree view south over the Jordan Valley, north to the Kinneret and the Golan and west over the Galilee and valleys.

The fortress’ medieval name, “Belvoir,” means “beautiful view,” and that has not changed in more than a thousand years. It still commands a peerless and breathtaking view of the valley below.

Further walking around this fortress, you will get to discover halls, cisterns, and other areas. There is a sculpture park near the castle and a vulture’s nest on the next cliff top. It displays works by renowned artist Yigal Tomarkin.

This is unquestionably one of the secrets of Israel, and don’t forget your cameras. Chilrden will love to explore and run through the ruins. The site has partial wheelchair access.

See  Belvoir Park for more details.

See also Nature Reserves

Getting to Belvoir Castle

From Road 90 North of Bet Shean take the 717 into the hills for around 15Km – it is long uphill drive but don’t be put off and think that you are on the wrong road (unless you are) and it is really worth it.

It is best to visit the castle during the afternoon where the sun faces the west.

Opening hours

Summer hours:

Sunday to Thursday, and Saturday – 8:00 to 17:00
Friday and holiday eves – 8:00 to 16:00

Winter hours:

Sunday to Thursday, and Saturday – 8:00 to 16:00
Friday and holiday eves – 8:00 to 15:00

Holiday eves: 8:00 to 13:00

Yom Kippur eve: 8:00 to 13:00

Closed on Yom Kippur.

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