Yechi’am Fortress National Park

November 12th 2014

Yechiam Fortress National ParkIf you’re fascinated by Israel’s 1948 War of Independence or by Crusader-era history, you won’t want to miss Yechi’am Fortress National Park. Definitely an off-the-beaten-path destination, Yechi’am Fortress National Park is located in the western Galilee, approximately 20 minutes from Nahariya.

The hilltop fortress in Yechi’am was originally built in the 12th century by Crusaders. It was destroyed by an Egyptian Sultan known as Baybars in the second half of the 13th century. Some 500 years later, a Bedoiun leader named Dhaher al-Omar rebuilt the fortress. It served as a Bedouin community center with a mosque, a watch tower and an assembly hall. These buildings are still accessible today. At this sprawling park, you can explore these ruins and enjoy spectacular views of the western Galilee from several angles.

Yechi’am literally means “Long Live the People” in Hebrew. This name evokes the most recent use of the fortress, which was part of the civilian defense against Muslim attacks during the 1948 War of Independence. In 1946, Kibbutz Yechi’am was established, and the walls of the ancient fortress initially served as housing for the community’s earliest pioneers. Later, the fortress ruins provided the kibbutz members with excellent protection during the war. The defensive positions of the early settlers have been reconstructed to help today’s visitors better understand the challenges the kibbutz members faced. Don’t miss the brief documentary about the role of Kibbutz Yechi’am during the War of Independence.

Other archeological finds in the Yechi’am Forest National Park include ruins of a Roman fort, a monastery from the Byzantine period, burial caves, mosaic fragments and stones inscribed with crosses, attesting to the site’s importance in Christian history.

Throughout the year, the site is home to art festivals, including the well-known Renaissance Festival, held here during Sukkot. Private events are also often held in the park.

Kibbutz Yechi’am operates a kosher deli factory known as Deli-Yehiam. The community also maintains Teva BeYehiam, a 60-room guest house built near the bottom of the fortress. The guest house features arched, Crusader-style design elements. Guests are treated to hearty breakfasts, a summertime swimming pool and a rousing jeep tour of the nearby Ga’aton riverbed. Teva BeYehiam is a great home base for a tour of the Galilee, including Mount Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai.