GESHER BENOT YA'AKOV

GESHER BENOT YA'AKOV (Heb. גֶּשֶׁר בְּנוֹת יַעֲקֹב; "Bridge of the Daughters of Jacob"), a bridge on the Jordan situated at the southern end of the Huleh Valley where the riverbed enters the valley about 6 mi. (9 km.) E. of Rosh Pinnah, near kibbutz Gadot. In excavations conducted near the bridge by M. Stekelis (1935–36), remains of the Early Stone Age were uncovered including remains of elephants. Built of basalt arches, the original bridge was erected at the end of the 13th century on the site of a natural ford of the Jordan (cf. Isa. 8:23) which served as one of the most important links between Ereẓ Israel and Damascus via Galilee and the Golan. A branch of the ancient route, the Roman Via Maris, passed through the ford. The name of the bridge is derived from an Arab tradition according to which the patriarch Jacob crossed the Jordan here and his daughters were buried nearby. The crusaders called the ford Vadum Jacob. Because of its strategic importance, it was the scene of several famous battles. In 1157 Baldwin III, crusader king of Jerusalem, was defeated there by the Muslim ruler of Damascus, Nur al-Din. A fortress ("chastellet"), remains of which still stand, erected by Baldwin IV in 1178 and assigned to the Knights Templar, was captured by Saladin within a year of its construction. In 1799 soldiers of Napoleon were stationed at the bridge to prevent reinforcements from Damascus from reaching Acre which his army was besieging. A battle between British and Turkish forces took place at the bridge in 1918. It was one of the bridges blown up by members of the Haganah on the night of June 17, 1946. In May 1948 the Syrians entered Israel near the bridge and captured mishmar ha-yarden , but later withdrew under the cease-fire agreements. After the Six-Day War (June 1967) the bridge served traffic to the Golan Heights. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Stekelis, in: BRCI, 9 (1960), 61–88. (Yehoshoua Ben-Arieh)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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