About Iudyn Yehiam Castle
A former Crusader Castle, Iudyn is now part of the Yehi’am Fortress National Park. The crusader fortress was largely destroyed by the forces of Mamluk Sultan Baibars and a later fortress was rebuilt on the site before being largely ruined in the eighteenth century. Today little remains of the castle itself but the park remains a pretty location to explore.
Iudyn Yehiam Castle history
Yehi’am Fortress National Park is an Israeli national park in western Upper Galilee on the grounds of Kibbutz Yehi’am, whose main attraction are the ruins of a hilltop castle.
Yehi’am Fortress, Iudyn by its Crusader name, started out 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 Baybars attacked the fortress 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.
After this, the site was abandoned for around 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 in 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.
Yehi’am Fortress witnessed a new chapter in history in the 20th century. On November 27, 1946 Hashomer Hatsa’ir 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 an operation to blow up the bridges over the nearby Kziv Stream.
According to the United Nations partition plan, the area north of Ne’eman 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.
Iudyn Yehiam Castle today
The fortress is now open to visitors as part of the national park. The top of the fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views. On a clear day, the northernmost coastal city in Israel and the sea can be seen.
Getting to Iudyn Yehiam Castle
Yehi’am National Park is in Western Galilee, in the southern part of Kibbutz Yehi’am. Access to the site is from the Nahariya – Ma’alot road (Road 89). About 2.5 km east of Kabri Junction, turn south to the Kibbutz Yehi’am access road (Road 8833), and drive 5 km to the kibbutz and the fortress. Parking is available near the entrance to the national park.
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