Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People will be opening a special exhibition to honour the volunteers who made an invaluable contribution towards winning the 1948-49 War of Independence and helped to lay the foundations of the Israel Defense Forces
Many elderly World War II veterans will be making a special journey to Israel to participate in this prestigious honour in the presence of state and military dignitaries, as well as ambassadors and military attaches.
Known as MACHAL (Mitnadvei chutz l’Aretz) which translates as volunteers from abroad, over 4,500 men and women, Jews and non Jews, from 58 countries rallied to Israel’s aid in her struggle against the invasion of 6 well-armed Arab nations.
By July 1948 it looked like the war might be lost. 70% of Israel had been occupied by the invading Arab armies. The Egyptians were 20 miles from Tel Aviv. Without the MACHAL pilots and air crews in their fighter and bomber aircraft, the outcome of the war might have been very different.
In the face of a United Nations embargo on the export of military equipment to Israel, the Machal volunteers were also instrumental in smuggling desperately needed planes and equipment into Israel.
The War of Independence was Israel’s longest, costliest, and most fateful war. 6,300 civilians and military personnel were killed (1% of the entire Jewish population of Palestine). 123 Machalniks (119 men and 4 women) lost their lives.
The late Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin stated: “You came to us when we needed you most, during those hard and uncertain days in our War of Independence. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The People of Israel and the State of Israel will never forget, and will always cherish this unique contribution made by you – the volunteers of Machal”.
Prime Minister Ben Gurion said: “The Machal Forces were the Diaspora’s most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel”.
In 1993 Stanley Medicks, co-ordinator of the British and European Machal Association and fellow Machal comrades raised the funds for a memorial to be built in Israel in memory of the 123 Machalniks who gave their lives.