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Birya was founded by the Palmach on January 8, 1945 and the fortress built thereafter. In addition to its civilian purpose, the settlement was intended to serve as a base for the defense of Jews in nearby Safed, which at the time had an Arab majority, and as a waystation for Jewish immigrants arriving from Syria.
On February 28, 1946, the residents were arrested after the discovery of an arms cache in the village. Shortly thereafter the British decided to prohibit Jewish residence at the site. However, after a series of large protests and attempts at resettlement of the site, the British relented and agreed to the permanent settlement of 20 people at the site. This was seen as a large victory in the struggle for Jewish settlement of the land.
In Israel's War of Independence the site was destroyed but later reconquered by Jewish forces. After the war it served for several years as a camp for new immigrants, and was later abandoned.
In 1971 the modern community of Birya was established, about two kilometers to the southwest of the original site. In the same year, the fortress was turned into a museum explaining the history of the area. It is now surrounded by Birya Forest.
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