Situation and characteristicsHigh above the Jordan valley rise the ruins of this great Crusader castle, built by French Knights Hospitallers and named Belvoir for its view of the valley. Its Hebrew name is Kokhav HaYarden ("Star of the Jordan"). There are two routes to Belvoir. Coming from the north, turn off the Tiberias-Bet Shean road just beyond the Tavor valley (13km/8mi south of the Sea of Galilee) into a road on the right which winds its way up to the castle, 500m/1,650ft above the road. Alternatively, turn off the Bet Shean-Afula road at En Harod (14km/8.5mi from Bet Shean) into a very poor road on the right which runs up via the villages of Ramat Zevi and Bene Brit to Ramot Yissakhar and from there to Belvoir (13km/8mi from En Harod).HistoryThe territory in which the castle stands was acquired in 1168 by the Knights Hospitallers, who then built one of the strongest frontier fortresses in the Frankish kingdom. In 1187 it withstood an attack by Saladin after his victory over the crusading army at the Horns of Hittim. Two years later, however, the knights were forced to surrender the castle on the promise of safe passage to Tyre. Fearing that the Crusaders might regain possession of the castle, the Arabs slighted it in 1219; and although the Crusaders did in fact recover it in 1241 it was never rebuilt. In 1966-67 the ruins were cleared of soil and partly restored.
The Belvoir castle, which covers an area of 100m/110yds by 140m/155yds, is surrounded on three sides by a moat 25m/80ft wide and up to 12m/40ft deep. The outer walls, in the form of a pentagon, are reinforced by seven towers, four at the corners and one in the middle of three of the sides. The east side, where the hill falls steeply down to the Jordan valley, was protected by a large projecting tower, which was destroyed in the last siege of the castle. The castle walls enclose a fortress within a fortress. The square inner stronghold, measuring 40m/130ft each way, could still hold out even if the outer works were taken (though this situation never actually arose). On the ground floor of this inner castle were store-rooms, the kitchen and a dining room. The inner courtyard is thought to have been roofed over.The main entrance to the castle was in the tower at the southeast corner of the complex. On the west side there was an entrance approached over a drawbridge (now replaced by a footbridge).