During the War of Independence, Kibbutz Gesher was the first settlement to face attack by a regular army, the Arab-Jordanian Legion. As early as May 1948, with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the kibbutz members were the focal point of an Iraqi invasion. Following the siege, the kibbutz was totally razed, and became an outpost held by its members who fought bravely and withstood the attacks.
Kibbutz Gesher has relocated slightly to the west, so that now, on the banks of the Jordan, stands the Old Gesher, a hidden scenic corner of geopolitical and historical importance with its border, three bridges, a junction of the road and railway track, an ancient inn and a British police fortress.
Opposite, on the other side of the border, the restored power station built by Pinchas Ruttenberg, “The old man from Naharayim” can be seen and enjoys considerable prominence in the Old Gesher museum, also named after that project The Naharayim Experience at Gesher. In the historic dining room that has been preserved and rehabilitated, an audio-visual program is screened with a multimedia presentation that reconstructs life there. An electronic map illustrates the battles and defense of the bridge that prevented northern Israel from being severed by the invading forces.
The story of Kibbutz Gesher starts long before the founding of modern Israel. The banks of the River Jordan, along which the kibbutz spread, revealed many artifacts of various periods of rule. These include artifacts from the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate. During those periods, military convoys visited the area crossing the River Jordan on historic bridges still proudly standing today:
The Roman bridge: The earliest bridge that came to be called the “Bridge of the Meeting Place” due to the convergence of the Jordan and the Yarmuk Rivers nearby.
The Turkish bridge: The railway bridge, built in 1904 as part of the Jezreel (Hedjaz railway) Valley line from Haifa to Damascus.
The British bridge: Built in 1925, with the paving of the Beit SheanTiberias Road. The road to the Jewish enclave on Naharayim, in Eastern Trans-Jordan, followed this route to the first hydroelectric station in Eretz Israel, built by Pinchas Ruttenberg.
The three bridges were blown up by the Hagana and members of Kibbutz Gesher in order to thwart the invasion plans of the Arab armies during the War of Independence.
The beginnings of the proud history of the place lies in the Roman concept of Pax Romana (Peace), according to which sustainable control is assured only when it is economically founded.