Stanley Medicks, who died in England earlier this month at the age of 82, was a
commander in Mahal (Volunteers from Abroad) during the War of Independence and
later served as chairman of British and Scandinavian Mahal.
He was the
instigator of the Mahal Memorial at Sha’ar Hagai, west of Jerusalem, and
organized the Mahal Exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People
Medicks was born on September 27, 1925 – Yom Kippur – in
Nairobi, Kenya, and died at a hospital in London on June 10.
family (or Mardygs as some were known) left Poland in the early 1900s when it
was thought a state of Israel was to be established in Uganda. They settled
instead in Kenya. Fervent Zionists, his parents had a photo of Theodor Herzl on
the wall in their living room.
Medicks was immensely proud of his
heritage and spoke often about his mother, the president of Nairobi WIZO, and
his father, who was a partner in the East African Tank and Metalwork Company
with his uncle.
His father was a sheet metal worker and Medicks was proud
that his family built the roof of Nairobi’s first synagogue, established by his
uncle. He attended the prestigious Prince of Wales School and then joined the
King’s African Rifles regiment in 1943.
He served nearly four years in
Ethiopia and Somalia, and much to his later regret, even trained Idi Amin. In
1976, Amin – then the president of Uganda – personally welcomed the terrorists
who hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, and his troops were responsible for
killing the heroic commander of Israel’s hostage-rescue mission, Lt.- Col.
Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
leaving the army, Medicks returned to Kenya and attended a talk given in
February 1948 by then-chief rabbi Louis Rabinovitch about what was happening in
He immediately volunteered for the Hagana and traveled with
804 South African Mahal in August 1948 to fight in the War of
He was posted to the 72nd Infantry Battalion of the
prestigious 7th Brigade as a platoon commander and was involved in fighting for
the liberation of the Galilee. The platoon was made up of recruits from South
Africa, Europe, Canada, US, Costa Rica and India. He was wellknown by his some
60 men who considered him a fearless officer of the “follow me” tradition,
always leading from the front. Sadly there are now only a handful of these 60
still around. His soldiers have always remembered him with affection, devotion,
admiration and respect.
After the war, Medicks helped build the sewage
system in Mamilla, Jerusalem, and met and married his first wife, Monica, in
Israel. She was an English journalist who had volunteered to fight with the
Irgun as an intelligence officer.
They decided not to settle in Israel
and went to live in Nairobi. Following the Mau Mau uprising they moved to
London. Unable to find work as a sanitary engineer, Medicks started a
second-hand car business in Camden Town, northwest London, that he ran for 30
years. He was proud to have been “an honest car dealer.”
In 1988, Medicks
formed the British and European Mahal Association and enrolled over 300
volunteers. Many were Holocaust survivors and had come to England with the
Kindertransport. Meetings and reunions were held not only in London but also in
European countries. Through the offices of the IDF military attachés in London,
Stanley arranged the belated presentation of Israeli war medals to its
Thanks to Medicks’s dream and determination, as well as
fund-raising assistance from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, a
beautiful World Mahal Memorial to the volunteers who died was built in 1993 and
inaugurated by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Most the volunteers had
already experienced the horrors of war as soldiers, sailors and airmen in the
A dozen or so had been prisoners-of-war, but still
they came, flocking to the assistance of the fledgling Jewish state, by land,
sea and air.
Some 4,500 volunteers joined Mahal (a Hebrew acronym for
“Mitnadvei Hutz La’aretz”) from 58 countries.
Of these, 123 – men and
women – were to make the supreme sacrifice. Thanks to Medicks, their names are
inscribed on the wall of the Memorial amphitheater: Eighteen were married, at
least 12 had been decorated for gallantry or distinguished service in World War
II, 11 were non- Jewish, four were women, 10 were only 17 or 18 years
The Memorial is sited in the Yitzhak Rabin Park at Sha’ar
At the entrance to the famous Burma road built by hand to connect
Tel Aviv to besieged Jerusalem, the site is a focal point and meeting place for
Mahalniks to gather, learn and remember. An annual service is held on
Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars.
In 2012, Medicks
traveled to Israel to take part in the opening of a Mahal Exhibition which he
instigated and helped fund at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People,
in Tel Aviv.
Only a couple of months ago, he spoke at the Tricycle
Theatre in London which was showing 804, a film about the South African
volunteers in the War of Independence, as part of Jewish film week. It can be
seen on YouTube.
He is survived by his long-term partner, Marion, and his
children, Ashley and me, stepchildren, Charlotte and Clive, grandchildren and
The writer is the daughter of Stanley Medicks.