District: Akka (Acre)
Population 1948: 1690
Occupation date: 15/07/1948
Occupying unit: Carmeli brigade
Jewish settlements on village/town land before 1948: None
Jewish settlements on village/town land after 1948: Ahihud , Yas'ur
The village stood on a rocky hill that sloped towards the Acre plain. It was a short distance southeast of the junction of two highways, one leading to Acre (that was 10.5 km west of the village) and the other to Haifa.
Ont he eve of the first truce of the war, Israeli forces tried to consolidate their positions in the western Galilee by taking control of the hills parallel to the coast. According to the History of the war of Independence, they managed to occupy al-Birwa and positions overlooking the village at this time (around 11 June 1948). This push was probably effected by the Carmeli Brigade in the wake of Operation Ben-Ami. Battles in this area persisted despite the truce. The Israeli army announced on 25 June that its troop had clashed with Arab units at al-Birwa, inflicting 100 casualties. The New York Times correspondent reported that there had been fighting for two days and that UN observers were on the scence investigating the truce violations. The report added that the village "had been held by a small Israeli garrison prior to the truce," and "fell into the hands of the Arabs when troops operating out of Nazareth launched a surprise attack and recaptured the village."
In later years, some of the villagers described the situation at al-Birwa in greater detail, giving an account that diverges somewhat from that of the Haganah and the foreign press. According to their version, the clash at the village was between the Haganah and a group of sparsely armed villagers. Eyewitnesses interviewed by Palestinian historian Nafez Nazzal stated that Zionist forces entered the village on the morning of 11 June, just before the first truce. About forty-five lederly people hid in the church with the village priest. After losing some men in the attack, the village's defenders ran out of ammunition and began to withdraw. The villagers took refuge in surrounding villages for about thirteen days and then decided to reenter the village to harvest their fields before the crops were spoiled. Over ninety-six men armed with rifles and an equal number of unarmed men and women assembled near the front lines of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA). (The ALA did not participate because it had not received any orders.) They then made their way accross the lines, shouting Allahu akbar! ("God is greater [than the ennemy]!") One villager recalled: " The armed men were in the first line of the attack. They were followed by the unarmed men who were carrying shovels, axes and sticks – they picked up the rifles of those who fell in the fighting. Behind came our women, carrying water to help the injured."
The villagers took the Zionist occupiers by surprise, attacking from three directions and forcing them to withdraw to an area about half a kilometer to the west of al-Birwa. They harvested the crops – some had already been harvested by the Haganah troops – and remained in the village for two days, until 24 June. The ALA then suggested that the villagers join their families in surrounding villages; it then took control of the village. But that same evening, the Zionist launched a counterattack and the ALA withdrew, allowing the village to be captured a second time. Many people stayed on the outskirts of al-Birwa and in surrounding vilalges for a long time; some managed to find their way back to gather some belongings.
The village was not firmly captured until the first stage of Opertaion Dekel, after the end of the first truce of the war, around mid-July 1948. The Haganah account indicates that the ALA put up a fight in the vicinity pf the village, but by the beginning of the second truce on 18 July, the village lay firmly behing Israeli lines.
On 20 August 1948, a blueprint submitted by the Jewish National Fund to the Israeli cabinet called for building a settlement on the village site. On 6 January 1949, Kibbutz Yas'ur was inaugurated on the site, formally supplanting the village of al-Birwa. In 1950 the settlement of Achihud was established on the western part of the village land.
Three houses, two shrines, and a school remain. One of the shrines is made of stone and has a dome with a shallow curvature that spans the entire roof. The shcool's architecture is similar to that of Qula. All of these landmarks stand deserted amid cactuses, weeds, and fig, olive, and mulberry trees. The debris of destroyed houses punctuates the vegetation. There are also some graves near the site that are in a state of neglect. Part of the site and the land are farmed by the residents of Achihud.