History buffs re-enact Holy Land crusader battle

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The year is 1187 and the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem is beginning to collapse. At the Battle of Hattin, sword-wielding soldiers on horseback chant in Arabic, looking to behead their Christian targets.

Some 60 history buffs are re-enacting the famed battle near an extinct volcano in northern Israel overlooking the Sea of Galilee, where Saladin’s army defeated the crusaders at the end of the 12th century. The Battle of Hattin marked the strengthening of Muslim rule in the region.

Replete with swords, shields and body armor, the group marched 27 kilometers (17 miles) this weekend while re-enacting one of the most significant battles of the Middle Ages. The level of detail went down to the use of wooden and ceramic utensils and hand-woven undergarments reflective of the time.

“It’s a direct way of connecting to history, not through books and not through the computer,” said Genadiy Niznik, who organized the event and heads the only Israeli chapter of the “living history” trend.

About a third of the participants arrived with their elaborate gear from Russia. The project is supported by the Lower Galilee Regional Council.

Niznik, who is completing a master’s degree in archaeology at Haifa University and researches attire and textiles from the Holy Land of the 12th century, hopes the trend will begin to catch on in the Holy Land. He said the area offers stories and locales just as captivating as those of Civil War reenactments that draw big crowds in the United States.