Old Gesher, you’ll enjoy the Naharayim Experience, where flowing water,
sound, colored lights and other effects take you back to the old days.
You’ll learn that even after Rutenberg got his franchise, plenty of
obstacles remained. Who would build the dam to regulate the Jordan’s flow at the Sea of Galilee?
Who would construct the 42-foot-high dam over the Yarmukh, with its
massive sluice gates for diverting the river into a 300-acre artificial
lake, or the 1200-foot-long canal that sent the water plummeting down 50
feet through iron pipes to the turbines? In spite of the grueling
conditions, the project attracted laborers from across the country,
providing work for 700 hungry pioneers.
even a natural disaster could stop construction for long. In 1931, a
flood swept away the recently installed 20-ton transformers and the
whole project seemed in danger. It was the laborers who saved the day,
offering to work for room and board until Rutenberg could find investors
to replace the ruined components. Inside of a year, the two
transformers were replaced, a third was installed, and the plant went
also see remains of bridges at Old Gesher, dating from Roman and
Turkish times, the British railroad bridge that connected Transjordan
with Tiberias and Beit She’an (gesher means “bridge” in Hebrew),
and an old inn where caravans spent the night, all of which attest to
the centrality of the major four-way junction that was here. You’ll sit
at the old wooden tables in the restored dining room of Kibbutz Gesher
where the pioneers once took their meals, to see an imaginative
audiovisual presentation of kibbutz life in the early part of the 20th
today’s Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as your backdrop to the east,
you’ll also discover that the power station and the workers’
neighborhood fell outside the boundaries of British Mandatory Palestine.
Many of the workers were citizens of Transjordan, a status they
believed would protect them and their plant, even after Palestine was partitioned in November 1947 and chaos ensued.
On the eve of the War of Independence, Golda Meir held two secret meetings with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan
(the great-grandfather of the present king, Abdullah II) at Naharayim –
where she arrived disguised as a veiled Arab woman – seeking to
convince him not to join the fighting. But join he did, and at the end
of April 1948 it was decided to evacuate the women and
children from Naharayim. Almost immediately afterward, the Jordan Legion
attacked Kibbutz Gesher. Then, on Friday May 14, the day Israel
declared independence, the Iraqi army entered Naharayim, breaking an
agreement between King Abdullah and the workers. Within a few hours
their community was in ruins. The workers barricaded themselves in the
turbine hall, but had to surrender the next day. Forty-three workers
were taken prisoner, and were repatriated only nine months later.
was an emotional time when the new border arrangements made access to
Naharayim possible again, especially for those whose personal history
was connected to the place. In May 1996, two buses with “Naharayim
children” – many of whom were now senior citizens -- set out to visit
their childhood homes, hosted by officials of the Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan. Among the ruins, many found the houses and gardens they once
two miles north of Old Gesher, the second part of your visit awaits, at
Naharayim itself. At the visitors center, before you start out on your
tour, you may encounter a very special lady, Orna Shimoni, from nearby
Kibbutz Ashdot-Yaakov, who lovingly cares for a garden planted here
memory of seven girls killed by a Jordanian soldier in March 1997.
entire fascinating saga of the two sites, Old Gesher and Naharayim,
comes together here as you walk along the Dam Trail to see the massive
floodgates over the Yarmukh, and stand on the Island of Peace, where
your local guide will point out the confluence of the Jordan and the
Yarmukh, the railroad that once connected Haifa to Damascus, the
Israel-Jordan border, the cultivated fields of Kibbutz Ashdot-Yaakov,
the workers’ neighborhood, and the hydroelectric-station – powered not
only by water, but by vision and determination.
Gesher was restored by the Council for the Restoration and Preservation
of Historic Sites, the Electric Corporation, the Tourism Ministry,
Kibbutz Gesher, and other bodies. Special arrangements for the
mobility-challenged, hearing- and sight-impaired are available at Old
Gesher. The Jewish National Fund and the restoration council assisted in
the restoration of Naharayim. For hours and group tours at both sites
call: Old Gesher, 04-6752685 and Naharayim at 04-6709143.