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Metzad Ateret

Metzad Ateret

Jacob’s Ford by Metzad Ateret

The crossing, known as Jacob’s Ford in ancient times, had settlements around it. Archaeological remains found in the area date to the lower Paleolithic, or Stone Age period of 750,000 years ago. The bridge was a major crossing point between Acco and Damascus. In 1918, Turkish forces retreating from the British in World War I destroyed the bridge. The bridge was destroyed again on June 16-17, 1946 by the Haganah on the night of the bridges. After the Israeli War of Independence, the bridge was part of the demilitarized zone.

Ateret Fortress – מיצד אדרת – Metzad Ateret

Metzad Ateret, or Qasr Atara is adjacent to The Daughters of Jacob’s  Bridge (Gesher Bnot Yaakov) in the Jordan River valley.

The name of the fortress is a comedy of errors. Early Christians identified the city of Bethulia (Beit El) from the Apocryphal Book of Judith as the city of Safed. From here it led to additional mis-identifications by moving Jacob and his family to the Galilee, for instance  Jacob’s Bridge, thinking that this is where Jacob crossed theYabok (Jordan) to meet his brother Esau. The Moslems called this ford Makhdat al Akhsan (The Crossing of Sadness) the place where Jacob heard that his son Joseph had died. Khan Job Yusuf is the well into which Joseph was thrown. The Cave of Shem and Ever, in Safed.  Akko became Acre (Ekron). Baron Rothchild mis-identified Machanaim with Jacob’s crossing of the Yabok. Last but not least the Daughters of Jacob’s Bridge. In the 12th Century there was a nunnery in Safed named after Saint James. They received part of the customs and taxes paid at the St. James Ford. James was translated via the French Jaques to Jacob.

After the victory of the Crusaders on Sultan Saladin in the Battle of Montgisard in November 1177, King had Baldwin IV of Jerusalem began in October 1178 to build on the “James Ford” a mighty castle. This ford was the safest Jordan transition between Acre and Damascus and therefore had special strategic value.

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Mason’s symbols can still be found on the fortress stones.

Medieval teen king, precocious politician, and successful battlefield commander, Baldwin IV not only surmounted disabling neurological impairment but challenged the stigma of leprosy, remarkably continuing to rule until his premature death aged twenty-three. His coronation as sixth king of Jerusalem at age thirteen coincided with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Crusader Latin Kingdom in July, 1174. Twelfth-century Jerusalem, with a population larger than any European city.

The castle was as a defensive bulwark the northern flank of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and put pressure on Saladin fortress city of Damascus. In April 1179, the first phase was completed and with a garrison of the Knights Templar occupied.

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Soon after construction began Saladin had learned from the work, but he was not initially able to prevent these military because his main force was bound by Muslim uprisings in northern Syria. Thus, Saladin decided to offer Baldwin money. He offered 60,000 dinars if this would be to set the construction work. When Baldwin refused, the Sultan increased its offer to 100,000 dinars.  The king refused again and continued the expansion of Chastellet. In the summer of 1179, the castle is said to have had a massive, ten-meter high perimeter wall and a tower and the building work went even further.

Saladin then gathered his army and marched against Chastellet. King Baldwin was half a day’s march away in Tiberias at that time. The audacious goal of the attackers was to conquer the castle before Baldwin would advance with a relief army. After about six-day siege succeeded the Muslims on 30 August 1179 to undermine the castle wall and make a breach through which they stormed the castle. That same day King Baldwin appeared with his army of relief before Chastellet, too late to save the soldiers and construction workers in the castle, which were all to be killed or enslaved.  Baldwin withdrew and Saladin had the castle destroyed systematically. archaeologist found the remains of those killed (said to be 700) during the dig.
Metzad- Ateret
Modern archaeology has found signs of medieval earth quakes (paleoseismicity).

A trail marked with black trail markers heads south and north of Jacob’s Ford Bridge. The northern section is good for bikers, while the southern section is good for hikers.

Leave your car by the Bailey bridge on route 91. Walk southward on the road for about 25 meters and take the jeep road by the new concrete bridge (note that the jeep road is blocked off and inaccessible by vehicle). Continue on the black trail as far as you desire; there are many places where you can head down to the river. Do not enter the water near the Kfar Hanassi Hydroelectric plant. This is a small project on the Jordan River that produces and sells electricity to the National Grid when the river is in high flow.


The following clip does not take place at Jacob’s Ford, but  it presents the atmosphere of the Crusaders and their “holy wars”.

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