By Logan Paiste
Arid mountains were seen out of the left and right side windows of the bus. The occasional house appeared for a moment’s glance out of the window and then disappeared from sight. The bus continued at its steady pace of 100 kilometers per hour and the student passengers were busy engaging themselves in conversation, remembering their last few weeks at Akko. A few others were taking naps, heads leaning on the window or the seat in front of them. Typical day for a field trip – everything was normal.
A narrow road appeared to the right side, leading up the hill. The road looked like a driveway… except, without a house at the end. Right blinker turned on, and the bus began to drive on the road. Higher and higher the bus went, and the road only continued to curve and snake its way up the mountain. There seemed to be no end. The views of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan valley were more magnificent and breathtaking the higher the elevation became.
A stone gate greeted us as we arrived at Kokhav Hayarden National Park (also known as Belvoir National Park). Dr. Killebrew added this site to the field trip itinerary for the first time ever, and no one knew what to expect of this park located at the top of the mountain. The bus driver dropped us off right in front of the big basalt fortress. The ground which we walked on descended 10 meters in height to become a moat, and we had to walk across a bridge in order to reach the interior layer of the basalt masterpiece. Grand stone arches welcomed us to the magnificent structure, and we roamed around the stronghold in awe of its size and splendor. In the northeast corner of the fortress, everyone gathered in order to capture photographs of themselves with the Sea of Galilee in the background. Simply stunning altogether!
I was personally amazed by the amount of effort which went towards the construction of the Crusader-era fortress. I thought to myself: how long did it take for the laborers to carry each large block of stone up the high mountain? How much did it cost to build the stronghold overall? How many people could fit inside of the fortress during times of war? Although I will never be able to travel back in time to accurately answer these questions, I nonetheless have incredible appreciation for the completion of the project centuries ago.
I am so grateful to have had the chance to visit Belvoir. This was my most favorite archaeological site which we visited during the field trips. It’s like a secret gem in Israel. With the amount of time and effort that is required to drive up and down the mountain just to visit, I gather that not too many people travel to see the site. No matter how long I am traveling in Israel, there are always new adventures waiting for me and new people to meet. I hope that Belvoir will also be an adventure for one of you some day!