Lighter moments of 1948

I was privileged to be part of a small team of Mahal volunteers from abroad with World War II.

April 27, 2009 21:11
1 minute read.
Lighter moments of 1948

mahal men 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy of David Teperson)

With Independence Day celebrations coming, I'm reminded of an amusing incident that occurred during the 1948 War of Independence. I was privileged to be part of a small team of Mahal volunteers from abroad with World War II radar experience, delegated to construct Israel's first radar from bits and pieces scrapped by the British army. At that time, unlike other army units in the newborn state, there was no radar nucleus at all. It had to be built from scratch. Nor were there any local personnel experienced in the subject, as the British had barred Palestinian Jews from working on radar. Consequently volunteers from abroad with radar experience were especially valued. Shula, the wife of our commanding officer, the late Charlie Braudo, was intrigued by these English-speaking volunteers and when exigencies permitted, she gave us Hebrew lessons which we thoroughly enjoyed. It so happened that during this period, I made a motorcycle trip to Tel Aviv. While I was waiting at an intersection, Yosef, a friend of Shula, who had shown a keen interest in the progress of our Hebrew learning, happened to come past. After exchanging warm greetings, Yosef proceeded to speak in Hebrew that was much too advanced and rapid for me to understand. Hiding my ignorance I responded with ken (yes), lo (no), betach (of course) and similar profound interjections at what I hoped were appropriate moments and finally lehitraot (till we meet again) as I drove off. Evidently my interjections were appropriate. Shula subsequently told me that Yosef reported on our meeting, "Not only does Moshe already speak a fluent Hebrew, he is an interesting conversationalist." When the time came to erect that radar which had been constructed from junk parts, I couldn't find a suitable electric motor to rotate the antenna. However, my colleague Eli Isserow and I found an old bicycle. With his exceptional mechanical skills, Eli constructed an apparatus, using the bicycle sprockets and chain, that enabled the antenna to be rotated by hand by means of the bicycle pedals. Because we lacked a suitable motor, the antenna could not be rotated more than 360 degrees to avoid entangling the connecting cables. Consequently, the operators would rotate it 359 degrees, then reverse direction. Most surprising, was the fact that this "Heath Robinson" radar station and the somewhat less primitive equipment that came later, actually worked successfully. The writer, based in Herzliya, is an industrial engineer.

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