by Moshe Friedman
Here is a suggestion for a clear, fresh winter day. Drive south via Rosh Pina on Route 90 towards Tiberias. Continue south and pass through Tiberias, keeping the Kinneret on your left. Towards the end of the Kinneret you will pass Moshava Kinneret, the first Jewish settlement established in the area in 1908. Stay on Route 90, passing Kibbutz Gesher on the right (west) until you see the sign for Belvoir. In Hebrew the sign will read Kochav HaYarden.
Make a right turn here and drive up a narrow road until you get to the top. At this point you will be on Route 717 where you will make a left turn. The road up will give you a beautiful view of the Bet Shean Valley as far as Jordan. During this drive, you will have gone from approx. 210 meters below sea level along the Kinneret to 312 above sea level at the National Park here.
We first hear of “Kochav” from early Jewish sources where the town is mentioned in the Talmud. Today we see the remains of a Crusader site built up by the Hospitaller Knights who occupied this site from 1168 until their surrender to Saladin in 1189. The fort itself was built in the concentric style where walls were built within walls. All told we see only four layers even though there was an additional wall further out. The fort is surrounded by a dry moat similar to what was found at other Crusader sites in Israel.
(For those doing the trip with baby carriages or wheel chairs, it is difficult but possible. I would recommend starting from the drawbridge to the left of the path, and parking lot. On the map given at the entrance to the site this is number (15).
If you walk in through the Outer Fortress Walls (6) and make a left we can see what is called the Inner Western Gate (10) where there is a beautiful example of double-arched gates. Entering from the outer gate you must turn 90 degrees and pass through this double gate through a stout wooden door in order to gain entrance into the inner part of the fort itself. Between the two inner gates is an open overhead space. This was not poor planning; rather it was excellent protection from invading forces. An attacking force couldn’t carry out a frontal attack in large numbers because of the narrow entrance and the sharp turn. Once they got to the door, Crusader defenders were able to pour boiling oil down on anyone who tried to get too close to the doors.
Meanwhile, you should notice the narrow windows along the walls. These are called firing embrasures, and are found throughout the fort. These windows are wide on the inside, allowing two men to shot arrows out at the attackers, but provided relatively small targets to the attackers.
Once inside, you can see the remains of the laundry, kitchen and, on the other side (east), the remains of water cistern.
There are steps in this site but there are enough rooms and places to walk through without using the steps. There are also clean restrooms at this site as well as tables for picnics. This is a National Park so there is an entrance fee. Once again, I would recommend visiting on a clear day to enjoy the spectacular view. In the afternoon there is often a strong breeze here.
Based on an article in the Safed “Western Settlers’ Newsletter.” Moshe Friedman is a certified tour guide and medic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; cell phone: 050-417651.