Today Kibbutz Yehiam is known for its meat products and Malka Beer. But not many people know that on the ground of this Kibbutz resized an old fortress, the Yehiam Fortress. And today we are going to visit Yehiam Fortress National Park. Let’s begin!
Kibbutz and Fortress Yehiam are located in the northern part of Israel, about 8km from Nahariya.
Map of the area:
Free parking is available near the site.
When we entered, we received the following brochure with site plan and basic info.
Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.
Adults 14 NIS, children 7 NIS, and Students 12 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.
If you are going to visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves post.
Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in February 2019. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.
On the south-western slopes of the national park, a burial cave and the ruins of a 6th century CE church and mosaic were found. Archaeological excavations were not carried out at the site.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
The main interest in the site begins with the Crusader period. Yehi’am Fortress, Iudyn by its Crusader name, apparently started as a fortified agricultural farm, built in the mid-12th century as one of the Crusader settlements in Western Galilee. The site at the time was part of the feudal estate of Mergelcolon, which was in the area of Bet Hakerem Valley, today part of the lands of the village of Majd al-Krum.
At the beginning of the 13th century, as they established themselves in Galilee, the Knights of the Teutonic Order purchased the place from Lady Stephanie de Milly, whose family owned land in Western Galilee. The Teutonic Knights built the fortress in the 1240s, but in 1265 the Mameluke Sultan Baibars attacked the fort and destroyed it. Domes, walls, and crenellations have survived in the fortress from those times.
There is no historical evidence regarding the construction of the fortress at Jiddin, nor any legal document in the archives of the Teutonic Order relating to the fortress. In 1283, two decades after the Mamelukes captured the fortress, the German monk Burchard of Mount Sion mentioned visiting the ruins of the fortress, which he attributed to the Teutonic Knights.
The Mamelukes and the Ottomans who came after them did not see fit to maintain the place, and it was abandoned for some 500 years. In the 18th century, the local leader Mahd al-Hussein took courage, took over the place and made it his estate. In 1738 Zahir al-Umar, the Bedouin leader of Galilee, captured the fortress from al-Hussein. The main remains of the fortress that can be seen today are from this period.
During the “Peasants Revolt” against Muhammad Ali (1834), the rebels barricaded themselves in Jiddin Fortress, which took mortar fire from the cannons of his son, Ibrahim Pasha. The revolt was put down.
War of Independence
Yehi’am Fortress witnessed a new chapter in history in the 20th century. On November 27, 1946, Hashomer Hatsair groups went up to the ancient fortress and settled in its gloomy halls. They called this new post Yehi’am, after the son of Yosef Weitz who fell in operation to blow up the bridges over the nearby Kziv Stream. According to the United Nations partition plan, the area north of Neeman Stream, including Kibbutz Yehi’am, was not part of the Jewish state.
After the declaration of the state (May 14, 1948) the kibbutz was attacked by the Second Yarmukh Battalion, under the command of Adib Shishakli, who recruited Arab fighters in Lebanon and came down to Galilee. The battalion’s first task was to capture Yehi’am. The kibbutzniks barricaded themselves between the walls of the fortress and, together with soldiers from the Haganna Field Corps who came to their assistance, overcame a two-month siege and waged a battle of life and death, which became one of the greatest dramas of the War of Independence.
At Yehiam Fortress National Park
When you visit this National Park, you start from the bottom, near the parking, and make your way up. Here we at the bottom, close to the fortress’s entrance.
We will skip the Byzantine burial caves (#1 on the site plan), and enter the fortress.
Western Observation Terrace And Bathhouse
The map on the brochure gives a top-down view, which can be a little confusing since the fortress is a multi-level structure. So, number 2 and 5 are which are next to each other, are on different floors. Here we are standing next to #5, the bathhouse and enjoying the view.
Western observation terrace and bathhouse – a spacious, open roof that served in the past as the floor of many rooms that no longer exist. From this terrace, there is a breathtaking view. On the southern side are the remains of a small bathhouse, apparently used by the commander of the fortress. Water was brought up in jars from the cistern in the fortress and poured into a channel that carried it to the bathhouse.
At this point, if look back then you will see the following building:
Inside this building, there is the “Mushroom Hall”:
this hall was used by the members of Kibbutz Yehi’am for growing mushrooms in the 1950s
In Mushroom Hall, there is a room with a TV and a DVD. You can see a video that tells about the history of Yehiam Fortress. Mainly about the Israel Independence War. This story is told by oldest members of the kibbutz, which participated in that war.
And since we are mentioning this period, do you know why the Kibbutz is called Yehiam?
Kibbutz Yehi’am was founded on November 27, 1946, by 50 members of the Zionist-socialist Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, who transformed the ruins of an Ottoman castle built on top of Crusader remains at Khirbat Jiddin into a military training camp. It was named after Yehiam Weitz, son of Zionist leader Yosef Weitz, who was killed on the “Night of the Bridges,” a Palmach operation on June 16-17, 1946.
What Does Yehiam Mean?
Yehiam is a composite of two Hebrew words which means: long live the people.
From point #2, we’re getting down to #5, the reception hall.
It is an impressive hall, and it could easily host several hundred people.
Reception hall – a large, pillared hall with 15 piers, intended as the base for the fortress complex above it. It can be assumed that during the Ottoman period it was used as a storeroom. The first members of Kibbutz Yehi’am lived in this hall before moving to the permanent settlement.
These halls look similar to Hospitaller Fortress in Old Acre.
Next to #8, central Crusader tower:
It is quite hard to see, but this is the view towards Nahariya and the sea.
Central Crusader Tower
From the top of the tower (#8) you get a view of both the fortress surrounding it and a wonderful panoramic view of the Western Galilee region.
The Crusader Tower – steps lead up to the top of the tower, one of two that existed in the Crusader fortress. This is a tower with very thick walls, whose strength made it possible to build a three-story tower, today rising to a height of 15 m. A staircase leads up to a lookout balcony on the roof.
The tower from another side (not far from #9):
Yehiam Fortress has different areas, which were constructed and modified at different times. This is the most recent part. At this area, Israeli soldiers took a stand during the Israeli Independence War.
Defense positions – around Tower A the path continues to the eastern part of the fortress, passing between the communication trenches and defense positions of Kibbutz Yehi’am from the time of the War of Independence.
The main gate is marked as #9 on the site plan.
The Fortress Gate – the fortress is entered through a gate from the time of Zahir al-Umar (most of the ruins that can be seen today at the fortress are from this period). A strong, semicircular tower protects the gate. The stones of the threshold were taken from Byzantine period buildings at the site. The gate was closed by two wooden doors plated with strips of metal.
Crusader wall (#6):
Most of the remains date from the time of the Bedouin Sheikh Daher al-Omar, who ruled the Galilee in the 1760s. He built new walls and towers and surrounded the fortress with a moat.
How Old Is Yehiam?
Archeologists found remains of Roman fort, Byzantine monastery, burial caves, and other remains.
The construction-date the Yehi’am Fortress is unknown, but it was originally part of the Ma’iliyah estate and was later sold to the Crusader Teutonic knights, who also purchased nearby Montfort Fortress.
During this post, we mentioned several places. First of the is the Montfort fortress.
Montfort is a ruined Crusader castle in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel, about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of the city of Haifa and 10 miles (16 km) south of the border with Lebanon. The site is now a national park inside the Nahal Kziv nature reserve and is an important tourist destination attracting many visitors from inside and outside Israel.
Moreover, in the history section, we mentioned Sultan and General Baibars. Though he did not stay here, he renovated Nimrod Fortress, the biggest Middle Ages castle In Israel.
Overall, Yehiam Fortress National Park is a nice place for a 1-3 hours visit. It is in pretty good condition and also offers great views of the surrounding area. There are also tables in this National Park, which allow visitors to have a picnic. Moreover, you can combine this visit with other nearby attractions.
My tip for parents to young children would be: bring flashlights. There are some darker areas, where kids can play with flashlights and have some fun.
Have you ever been to Yehiam Fortress National Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!