The old Gesher courtyard is a site in the Beit Shean Valley where the founders of Kibbutz Gesher first settled. During the War of Independence, the settlement was attacked and almost completely destroyed. After the war, the kibbutz moved to its current location and the abandoned courtyard was renovated and now serves as a heritage museum for the history of the place. The museum has been recognized as a heritage site by the Council for the Preservation of Heritage Sites in Israel.
The original site of the kibbutz was originally a khan or caravanserai built around 1365, active from the Mamluk period to the early 19th century. Situated right next to the west end of Jisr Majami (“bridge of the meeting”); it was one of the earliest khans in the Galilee and was a major crossroads Bet Shean–Damascus road.
There are three bridges at the site – a Byzantine stone bridge (the above-mentioned Jisr el-Majami); an Ottoman railroad bridge serving the Haifa-Dera’a segment of the Hejaz Railway, and a British Mandate road bridge serving the Haifa-Baghdad highway. The kibbutz was founded in 1939 on lands bought with the help of Edmond de Rothschild, by a group of Yishuv Jews (Palestinian Jews), who were members of the youth movement HaNo’ar HaOved, and a group of young Jewish refugees from Germany.
They were later joined by more Jewish immigrants from Poland, Germany, Austria, and additional Palestinian Jews. The kibbutz grew up near the Naharayim bridge as a Tower and stockade settlement. On 27 April 1948, the Haganah took control of the Gesher police station, a Tegart fort that had been evacuated by the British. The Arab Legion, still under British control at the time, ordered them to evacuate it. Haganah refused and both troops exchanged fire for 3 days until the Arab Legion was ordered by his HQ to return to their barracks.
In April–May 1948, 50 children of the kibbutz were evacuated to a 19th-century French monastery on the grounds of Rambam hospital in the Bat Galim neighborhood of Haifa, where they lived for 22 months. The building had been empty since 1933 when the Carmelite nuns had moved into their new monastery on the French Carmel. For seven days, beginning on May 15, 1948, the kibbutz and Tegart fort were attacked by Iraqi forces using armored cars and aerial bombing. The defenders repulsed the Iraqis, inflicting heavy losses, but the kibbutz was destroyed during combat. After the peace agreement between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, the kibbutz established a museum on the original site of the kibbutz that documents the history of Gesher and the Jewish-run power station of Naharayim.