A salute to Machal

In Israel’s fateful War of Independence, thousands of volunteers came from 59 countries to fight with their brethren and played a pivotal role in winning the war.

May 28, 2019 17:31
3 minute read.
A salute to Machal

Smoky Simon shares his remarkable experiences from the War of Independence with IDF soldiers on May 8, when Israel marked Remembrance Day for its fallen and victims of terror. (photo credit: TELFED)


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In Israel’s fateful War of Independence, over 4,800 volunteers from abroad (known as Machal) came from 59 countries to fight with their brethren. These Machalniks, most of whom were veterans of World War II, brought their skills and expertise and served in 14 branches of the IDF, including the Air Force, Navy, Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Medical Corps, Engineers, Anti-Tank, Radar, Communications and more. They played a pivotal role in three respects: first, in winning the war; second, in helping to train Israelis in certain military skills; and third, in establishing the foundations on which the IDF was founded – the ground forces, the Air Force, and the Navy.

As the war clouds were gathering over Palestine in 1947-48, these veterans felt an obligation to support their brethren in the newborn State of Israel. Recruiting in the Diaspora was done through Zionist Federations, religious congregations, ex-servicemen organizations, by word of mouth, and by the Haganah. Four main factors motivated the Machalniks to volunteer their services: the Holocaust; the shameful deportations of Holocaust survivors by the British; the Arab threat of exterminating the Jewish population of Palestine; and the feeling of unity that unites the Jewish people in times of major crises.


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