Daughters of Jacob Bridge

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"Jacob's Ford" redirects here. For other uses, see Jacob's Ford (disambiguation).
Bnot Ya'akov Bridge over the Jordan River; from the south.
The Daughters of Jacob Bridge in 1912

The Daughters of Jacob Bridge is a site on the upper Jordan River. It has the last good ford at the southern end of the Hula Basin before the Jordan gets squeezed between the Korazim block and the Golan Heights, and has thus been a crossing point since time immemorial. The name Jacob's Ford arose during the Crusader Period and is still in use, mostly in English.

The bridges built here in the past have led to the site's Arabic name, Jisr Banât Ya'qūb (Arabic: جسر بنات يعقوب‎),[1] lit. "Daughters of Jacob Bridge", translated to Hebrew as Gesher Bnot Ya'akov (Hebrew: גשר בנות יעקב‎), the name under which it is known today in Israel. The modern bridge is part of Highway 91 and straddles the border between Israel and the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It is of strategic military significance as it is one of the few fixed crossing points over the upper Jordan River which enable access from the Golan Heights to the Upper Galilee.

Prehistoric remains at the site, analysed by archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Germany and the United States, found that Lower Paleolithic ancestors living on the shore of a predecessor of the Hula Lake, which back then covered a much larger surface of land, produced stone tools, butchered animals, gathered plant food and controlled fire as early as 790,000 years ago. [2][3]

The caravan route from China to Morocco via Mesopotamia and Egypt used this crossing as part of the ancient Via Maris, which has been strategically important to Egyptian, Assyrian, Hittite, Jew, Saracen Arab, Crusader knight, and Ottoman Janissary, who had all crossed the river at this place.[4][5] The Crusaders built a castle overlooking the ford which threatened Damascus and was promptly attacked and destroyed by Saladin in 1179. The old arched stone bridge had marked the northern limit of Napoleon's advance in 1799.[4][5]

History[edit]

Jacob's Ford battlefield, looking from the west bank to the east bank of the Jordan River.

Jacob's Ford was a key river crossing point and major trade route between Acre and Damascus.[6]

Crusader and Ayyubid Period[edit]

Jacob's Ford was utilized by Christian Palestine and Seljuk Syria as a major intersection between the two civilizations, making it strategically important. When Humphrey II of Toron was besieged in the city of Baniyas in 1157, King Baldwin III of Jerusalem was able to break the siege, only to be ambushed at Jacob's Ford in June of that year.[7] Later in the twelfth century, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Saladin continually contested the area around Jacob's Ford. Baldwin allowed the Templars to build a castle overlooking Jacob's Ford and thus commanding the road from Quneitra to Tiberias.[8] On 23 August 1179, Saladin besieged and destroyed the not fully finished fortification, known as the castle of Vadum Iacob or Chastellet.

Modern era[edit]

Another battle was fought there on 27 September 1918 during the Palestine Campaign of World War I, at the beginning of the pursuit by the British Army of the retreating remnants of the Ottoman Yildirim Army Group towards Damascus. The bridge was destroyed by the Turkish forces, but was rebuilt by ANZAC sappers.

On the "Night of the Bridges" between 16 and 17 June 1946, the bridge was again destroyed by the Jewish Haganah.

The Syrians captured the bridge on June 11, 1948, during the 1948 Palestine war, but later withdrew as a result of the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Syria. After the war, the bridge was in the central demilitarised zone established by the armistice agreement.

In 1953, the site was chosen as the original location for the water intake of Israel's National Water Carrier project, but after US pressure the intake was moved downstream to the Sea of Galilee at Eshed Kinrot.[9]

During the Six Day War, an Israeli paratrooper brigade captured the area and the Israeli Combat Engineering Corps constructed a Bailey bridge.

In the Yom Kippur War, Syrian forces approached the vicinity of the bridge but did not cross it.

By 2007 there were two Bailey bridges employed at the site, one for traffic from east to west and the other for the opposite direction. However, in 2007 a modern concrete span was completed and as a consequence one of the Bailey bridges was dismantled and the other left intact for use on an emergency basis.

Archaeological site[edit]

Archaeological excavations at the prehistoric Gesher Bnot Ya'akov site (GBY) have revealed evidence of human habitation in the area, from as early as 750,000 years ago.[10] Archeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claim that the site provides evidence of "advanced human behavior" half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated. Their report describes a layer at the site belonging to the Acheulian (an Early Stone Age culture), where numerous stone tools, animal bones and plant remains have been found.[11] According to the archaeologists Paul Pettitt and Mark White, the site has produced the earliest widely accepted evidence for the use of fire, dated approximately 790,000 years ago.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sharon, Moshe (1997) Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, (CIAP) BRILL, ISBN 90-04-11083-6, p. 41
  2. ^ Dig site shows distinct living spaces in early Stone Age
  3. ^ http://archaeology.about.com/od/gterms/g/gesher_benot.htm
  4. ^ a b Preston, R. M. P. (1921). The Desert Mounted Corps: An Account of the Cavalry Operations in Palestine and Syria 1917–1918. London: Constable & Co. p. 261. OCLC 3900439. 
  5. ^ a b Hamilton, Jill Duchess of Hamilton (2002). First to Damascus: The Story of the Australian Light Horse and Lawrence of Arabia. Roseville: Kangaroo Press. p. 158. OCLC 248935397. 
  6. ^ Alan V. Murray, ed. (2006), The Crusades: An Encyclopaedia, ISBN 1-57607-862-0 p 649.
  7. ^ Richard, Jean (1999) The Crusades c.1071-c.1291 Cambridge University press ISBN 0-521-62566-1 pp 175-176
  8. ^ Payne, Robert (1998) The Crusades: A History Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 1-85326-689-2 p 188
  9. ^ Sosland, Jeffrey (2007) Cooperating Rivals: The Riparian Politics of the Jordan River Basin SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-7201-9 p 70
  10. ^ Evidence found of early modern humans (January 5, 2010) in Israel 21c Innovation News Service Retrieved 2010-01-05
  11. ^ Evidence of advanced human life half a million years earlier than previously thought (Dec 22, 2009) in The Jerusalem Post Retrieved 2010-01-05
  12. ^ Pettitt, Paul; White, Mark (2012). The British Palaeolithic: Human Societies at the Edge of the Pleistocene World. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-415-67455-3. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Murray, Alan V. editor. (2006), The Crusades: An Encyclopaedia, ISBN 1-57607-862-0
  • Payne, Robert (1998) The Crusades: A History Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 1-85326-689-2
  • Richard, Jean (1999) The Crusades c.1071-c.1291 Cambridge University press ISBN 0-521-62566-1
  • Sharon, Moshe (1997) Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, (CIAP) BRILL, ISBN 90-04-11083-6

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°0′37.02″N 35°37′41.83″E / 33.0102833°N 35.6282861°E / 33.0102833; 35.6282861