Sixty five years ago today, on April 15th 1948, the retreating British Mandate authorities abandoned the fortress at Nebi Yusha (today known as Metzudat Koach) which they had constructed a decade earlier as part of their attempts to put down the Arab revolt. The strategically located fortress was handed over by the British to Arab forces, thus threatening to cut off access to the Jewish communities in the Galilee panhandle, the Menara Ridge and Ramot Naftlai in the war which was sure to follow the British abandonment of the mandate for Palestine.
In the hope that the fortress’ new occupants would not yet have had time to organize themselves, later the same evening a group of soldiers from the Palmach and Golani brigades launched an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fortress, in which four soldiers were killed. Five days later, on April 20th 1948, the Palmach made another attempt to take the strategic point which also did not succeed and in which 22 soldiers were killed. A third attempt – this time successful – to take the fortress was carried out by the Palmach on May 16th 1948 – the day after the declaration of Israeli independence – within the framework of ‘Operation Yiftach‘ to liberate the Upper Galilee. Two soldiers died in that battle.
The fortress was later renamed to honour the twenty eight soldiers who fell in the attempts to capture it, with the word ‘Koach’ in Hebrew being comprised of the letters כ”ח – in gematria 28 – and also meaning ‘strength’. A memorial to the fallen soldiers is to be found next to the fortress – which is still in use as a base today by the Border Police and appears on its insignia – overlooking the Hula Valley.